at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Zurich – Franck Ribery slipped away from the Ballon d'Or gala without comment, clearly disappointed after losing out to Cristiano Ronaldo for the accolade of world player of the year.
Third place in the vote behind a tearful Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, whose year was hampered by injuries, was a lot less than the France midfielder had either hoped for or expected after such a successful season with Bayern Munich.
“I honestly have to say I am also disappointed, just as Franck is,” said Jupp Heynckes, whose achievements with Bayern in 2013 earned him the coach of the year award. “But he will again play really well. Franck wanted to win it but he will get over it.”
Although Ribery avoided the media after the vote at the Zurich Convention Centre, he told Tuesday's bild.de: “Of course I would have liked to have won, but it's OK... What more could I have done than win everything with Bayern?”
German football and especially Bayern had been expecting a victory for 30-year-old Ribery after a year which saw him win five trophies including the Champions League.
Ronaldo could not compete with that, but his all-round form for Real Madrid, his goalscoring prowess - 69 goals in all - and, to top it all, all four goals in a play-off win against Sweden to send Portugal to the World Cup finals swayed the vote in his favour.
Ronaldo earned 27.99 per cent of the votes, Barcelona's Messi - who had won the last four editions - 24.72 per cent and Ribery 23.29 per cent. Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who with keeper Manuel Neuer and Ribery, were voted into the Fifa world XI, also felt for his team-mate.
“I voted for him. He would have deserved it, but three good players were on the shortlist,” Lahm said.
There had already been controversy surrounding the vote after Fifa had extended the voting period from November 15 to 29 in order to take in the play-offs for the World Cup. Football's world governing body insisted the extra fortnight of voting did not change the final result.
However, Michel Platini, president of European football organizing body Uefa and Ribery's compatriot, made it clear he was not happy with the outcome.
That goals rather than titles seem to count more for the Ballon d'Or is something Platini, himself three times winner as European player of the year in the 1980s, does not quite fit the Frenchman's way of thinking.
“I am very disappointed for Franck Ribery. Will it next year again be Ronaldo-Messi, in two years Messi-Ronaldo and in three years Ronaldo-Messi?” he said.
“In the last 50 years the Ballon d'Or took account of success on the pitch. Now it appears more to be for the global performance of a player and that leads to problems.”
Indeed since 2008 only Messi and Ronaldo have been winners. It's also the case that football's most important accolade has become an ideological question. Ronaldo's 69 goals for Real Madrid impressed voters from Fifa's 209 member countries more than Ribery's five titles for Bayern.
That Messi also finished ahead of Ribery in the vote could lead to the conclusion that in the end only a worldwide well-marketed name makes a Ballon d'Or victory possible.
Especially immediately after the vote, the well-promoted Ronaldo gained some bonus points - his tears on stage moving everyone in the audience. The embrace for his young son showed a player often called arrogant from a very affectionate side.
“I couldn't hold myself back when I saw my son and my mother in tears,” he said. “That's the way I am. Maybe they are laughing at me but I don't care - it was a special moment.”
Bayern meanwhile remain proud of their Franck. “After winning the vote as European player of the year this third place is another confirmation of his fantastic performances as well as the titles he has celebrated with Bayern,” club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
German football can also can be proud after sweeping three awards at the gala. As well as coach of the year for Heynckes, keeper Nadine Angerer was voted women's player of the year and Silvia Neid the women's coach of the year. – Sapa-dpa