Cristiano Ronaldo beat Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery to pick up the FIFA Ballon D’or. This is the second time the talented Portuguese has picked up the award (earlier he picked up separate FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon D’or awards in 2008 but the two awards were merged in 2010) and if he continues in the same vein, he will probably be remembered as a better player than the original Ronaldo. Of course, he still needs to win on the international stage and make Real Madrid win the Champions League but with Ronaldo you get the feeling that it’s inevitable. We look back at some of his most iconic moments:
Sporting Lisbon VS Manchester United Friendly
Ronaldo first came in the limelight in 2003 when he tormented the Manchester United defence – seasoned professionals couldn’t touch him – and this led Sir Alex Ferguson to sign up the Portuguese. Sir Alex wrote in his autobiography that on the flight home, his players kept on urging him to sign the youngster. He was already attracting the interest from Arsenal, Real Madrid and other European giants and Sir Alex made sure Man Utd signed him before the others did.
Debut VS Bolton Wanderers
The first time Ronaldo came on as a substitute against Bolton, the Manchester United fans immediately took to the scrawny curly-haired youngster who seemed to have no fear at all. He was simply unfazed by the big Old Trafford stage or being in a new country. Defenders kept on tackling him but he just got up and got on with it, bamboozling them with his skills. The Manchester United faithful had just found a new messiah and the hard-tackling English football would have to learn to accommodate skilful players from then on.
The 2006 World Cup Wink
Ronaldo became England’s public enemy number 1 after the World Cup incident in which he was targeted for getting Man Utd teammate Wayne Rooney (as if he stamping on another player’s balls wasn’t reason enough) sent off and then winking at the bench afterwards. The English public and media completely tore into him but Sir Alex and Manchester United offered a sanctuary and from that adversity we saw the emergence of the player who would go on to dominate the world. He worked very hard on his physique to become the complete athlete, cut out the useless show-boating and become a far more decisive player.
The 2008 Double Season
Since 2006, Ronaldo had been performing at an exceptional level but in the 2007-08 season, he took his football to the next level as he dominated opponents in England and Europe. The Portuguese scored 42 goals in the entire season helping Manchester United lift the Champions League and the Barclays Premier League. Some of the goals he scored that year were simply out of this world which left the most seasoned pundits and commentators speechless!
The Most Expensive Player in the World
Sadly, Ronaldo had grown up dreaming of playing for Real Madrid and a protracted transfer saga ended in 2009 when Manchester Untied accepted a then world-record GBP 80 million pounds for him from Real. Ronaldo’s last match was on the biggest stage – the Champions League final against new rivals Barcelona – but they were simply outclassed by Messi and co. Sir Alex Ferguson said about him on his departure: ‘I have nothing but praise for the boy. He is easily the best player in the world. His contribution as a goal threat is unbelievable. His stats are incredible. Strikes at goal, attempts on goal, raids into the penalty box, headers. It is all there. Absolutely astounding.’
Competing with Lionel Messi and Barcelona
Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid coincided with the emergence of the greatest team in world football as Real competed tooth and nail with rivals Barcelona for honours while Ronaldo’s personal duel with Messi for accolades continued (none of them voted for each other in this year’s award). Despite finishing with 96 points in the 2009-10 La Liga season, a number that would’ve won Real the league anywhere in Europe, Real finished second to Barcelona who had 99 points. Even 92 points under under Jose Mourinho in the second season proved inadequate. But Real did beat Barcelona the third time they tried with a record-breaking 100 points and Ronaldo was in the thick of it all.
The Clash of the Titans with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden
The major complaint that critics have had against Ronaldo for all these years has been that he hasn’t ever performed forhis country the way he does for his clubs. Those views were led to rest in the clash of titans clash against Zlatan’s Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in the play-offs for the 2014 World Cup. It was a battle of two of the generation’s greatest players and one of them was going to miss out on the World Cup. Losing 2-1, Ronaldo scored two late goals to help qualify for the 2014 World Cup and seal his place in the pantheon of football’s greatest.