Cristiano Ronaldo: I want to catch Messi and be one of the greatest of all time
In-depth: Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo claimed a third Ballon d’Or crown on Monday and set his sights on becoming the greatest of all time.
The Portuguese had finished runner-up behind Messi in 2011 and 2012 before pipping the Argentinian in 2013 - and said he hoped there would be more to come.
Ronaldo, who was the overwhelming favourite, added to his triumphs in 2008 and 2013 after taking 37.66 per cent of the vote.
WHAT RONALDO SAID
"I would like to thank all of those who voted for me," said the 29-year-old, who struggled to fight back tears as he accepted the trophy.
"It was my eighth time here. It’s always me and Messi and one more. You can never be sure of anything, but I thought I had a good chance. I think I deserved it, but Messi deserved it also. All of us deserved it.
"It has been an incredible year. I would like to continue the work that I have done so far. I want to try to improve, to become better as each day goes by. This is an unforgettable moment, but I'm not going to stop here. I want to catch Messi.
"I never thought that I would bring this trophy back home on three occasions and I want to win it again. I want to become one of the greatest players of all time."
The most telling part of Ronaldo’s third Ballon d’Or is that it comes six years after his first. The Brazilian Ronaldo won Ballons five years apart. But nobody has ever come back to win it six years later, let alone having if anything improved as a player in the meantime. Messi may well be back as the world’s best next year, by which point he may have grown fully into the recalibrated Messi 2.0. But the difference right now is that Ronaldo remains physically undiminished, still propelling himself about the pitch with a flex of those terrifying neck muscles, still putting himself up one on one against an opposition defence as if to say: “You simply can’t match my movement or my control of the ball. Here I am, a living, breathing one-goal start.
After Ronaldo claimed the Ballon d’Or in 2008, Messi reeled off four titles on the bounce. It was Messi – not the Portuguese forward – who was constantly mentioned in the debate about the world’s greatest. Ronaldo had his high-profile commercial deals and flashy lifestyle, but he would never match the flawless Argentine on the pitch, the argument went.
The way he recovered from losing four consecutive Ballon d’Or titles should be commended. How many other sportsmen or women in history have watched their great rival take all the plaudits, continue to work hard and re-emerge in the spotlight? All while avoiding controversy and marketing themselves perfectly.
It is that utter commitment to his profession that has seen Ronaldo enter the pantheon of greats. It is fair and reasonable to mention him in the same breath as Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff. How long until he tops that list? His case strengthens with every passing day.