To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.
Tonight, on January 13, the winner of the 2013 Ballon d’Or will be announced and for the first time in years, the answer isn’t obvious.
For the first time in years, Lionel Messi isn’t a certainty.
And that shows just how incredible 2013 has been for Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery.
Ronaldo will put voters off because of his melodramatics on the pitch and his sulking, and of course, for many, his associations with Manchester United. Their votes will go to Messi, a more naturally gifted footballer, and one seemingly more graceful and humble.
Ribery meanwhile, will be the choice of the underdog; a cog in a wonderful Bayern Munich machine, one that rules Europe as we head into a new year.
Each is a deserving winner.
But who are we kidding?
Martin Scorcese may be nominated for an Oscar each time he brings out a film, simply because he’s Martin Scorcese, but that doesn’t mean he should win it.
And Lionel Messi shouldn’t win the Ballon d’Or each year simply because he is nominated.
As football fans, whether we love or hate them, we can’t help but be amazed at the statistics that are rolled out when Messi and Ronaldo are talked about.
For the past four years, since Ronaldo left Old Trafford for Madrid, it has been a case of one-upmanship between Ronaldo and Messi; ‘Whatever he could do, I can do better.’
It has been nothing but pure bad luck on Ronaldo’s part that Messi exists in the same period that he has been in his pomp, because he would have won the Ballon d’Or, two three, four times by now.
However, for four years, Leo Messi has been THE MAN.
But Ronaldo cannot be overlooked this time.
If you’re looking for defining moments, look at Portugal’s World Cup Qualifier with Sweden in November past. If ever a man carried his country alone to a World Cup then it was Ronaldo. On that night in Sweden, Ibrahimovic took on Ronaldo and it was the Portuguese who won through with an exhibition of finishing that was made all the more impressive by the enormity of each strike.
Portugal would not be flying to Brazil this year if it wasn’t for CR7.
Add to that his statistics of 70 goals in 59 matches in 2013, and you have an even better case for your winner.
What of Ribery?
With all due respect, what of him?
A fantastic player, an extraordinary team player, a treble winner in 2013 and the winner of UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award for 2012/13. He is Bayern Munich. He is awesome, and we all know it.
But it has to be Ronaldo.
For his quality, his persistence, his consistency, for those goose-bump inducing moments that make you think ‘God I love football!’, for being an absolute goal scoring machine, it has to be Ronaldo.
We love football for the moments we can never forget, and the players who give us those moments.
No one who ever kicked a ball in the street grew up dreaming that they wanted to be a great team player, as Ribery is.
We grew up, fantasizing that we were the greats, that one day we could be the best.
Children today want to be Messi, they want to be Ronaldo.
Name me one who wants to be Franck Ribery.
Football exists for the music makers, and the dreamers of dreams.
All three men make those dreams come true.
But when the envelope opens tonight in Zurich, there should be a new name at the top of the list.
Cristiano.

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