Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo is keen to win his second Fifa Ballon d'Or award and thus end the years of domination of Lionel Messi. Barcelona's Argentine striker is one of Ronaldo's rivals for the title - which will be announced Monday in Zurich – along with Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich.
Ronaldo first won the prestigious award in 2008, after helping Manchester United to win the Champions League.
Since then, he has had to put up with Messi winning it four times consecutively, despite all his hat-tricks and goals for Real Madrid. However, the tide might now have finally turned back in Ronaldo's favour. 2013 was a good year for the Portuguese striker, while Messi has struggled with various injuries.
“2013 was the best year in Ronaldo's career so far, this is why he deserves the Ballon d'Or,” sports daily Marca said last week.
Ronaldo finished second behind Messi in last season's Liga scoring chart, 46 goals to 34, but he is on top of the chart this season with 20 goals.
Ronaldo is also top of the Champions League scoring list with nine goals, and almost single-handedly guided Portugal into the World Cup finals by scoring all their four goals in the 4-2 aggregate defeat of Sweden in the play-offs.
“Quite simply, we would not have not reached the finals were it not for Ronaldo. He was absolutely decisive against Sweden, the big difference between the two teams,” Lisbon paper A Bola said in its review of 2013.
Luckily for Ronaldo, Fifa decided to extend the voting period for the Ballon d'Or until the play-offs had finished, a controversial, unprecedented move which annoyed Messi and Ribery but probably helped Ronaldo due to his goal blitz against the hapless Swedes. Ronaldo is so popular in Portugal that hundreds of visitors have already flocked to the personal museum that the striker has opened, on his native island of Madeira.
Real were very keen to extend Ronaldo's contract, which was due to expire in 2015, amidst rumours about him wanting to return to the English Premier League and about a record-breaking offer from French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
After months of speculation he agreed to extend his stay in Madrid until 2018, in exchange for a salary increase that made him the highest-paid player in La Liga.
“He is our leader and our flagship, our most important player for many years,” said Real president Florentino Perez when announcing the extension in September.
The arrival of Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti - to replace the departed Jose Mourinho - has given Ronaldo more freedom of movement on the field, with a completely free role in Real's attack.
The only weak point in Ronaldo's bid to regain the Ballon d'Or is his lack of trophies in 2013, since Real finished second behind Barcelona in La Liga and lost the cup final to neighbours Atletico.
However, the Madeira goal machine is fairly confident about his chances, saying last week: “Do I deserve to win this year's Ballon d'Or? Perhaps yes, just as I deserved it last year and two years ago. “I always think I deserve to win it. I simply like winning all the time, but I'm perfectly aware that it doesn't depend exclusively on me.” – Sapa-dpa