Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to match his great rival Lionel Messi on Thursday by claiming a fifth Ballon d’Or as recognition for leading Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double last season.
Barcelona’s 30-year-old Argentinian superstar won the coveted award from 2009 to 2012 and in 2015. Portugal’s Ronaldo, who is 32, took the honours in 2008, 2013, 2014 and last year.
The man who came to maturity under the watchful eye of ex-Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson clinched his fourth Ballon d’Or after an unforgettable season, first spearheading Real to the Champions League title before also leading his homeland to Euro 2016 glory in Paris.
The France football magazine award is decided upon by a journalists ballot (with 173 voting in 2016) with each naming a top five from a list of 30.
The 2016-2017 season was in a way just as glorious for Ronaldo, who started the season slowly before Real shaded Barcelona to the domestic title and then became the first side in the modern era to defend their European crown.
After seeing off Napoli, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the knock-out rounds Ronaldo scored twice in a 4-1 win over Juventus in the final, taking his tally to 12 goals in the competition that season.
“Last season was exceptional. We won the league and the Champions League, where I was again the top scorer,” Ronaldo told French daily L’Equipe.
– ‘I want seven’ –
Real have a staggering seven players on the shortlist of 30 with Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Isco, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos all nominated alongside their talisman Ronaldo.
The only other Barca player other than Messi, is the Uruguayan centre-forward Luis Suarez.
On the prospect of equalling Messi’s five wins Ronaldo quipped: “I want seven. Five is good but seven is my lucky number so seven would be great.
“I want seven children and seven Ballons d’Or.”
Despite his position as outsider Messi can take heart from the award’s history of upsets with Messi himself clinching the title against the odds in 2010.
That season purists pointed to the achievements of Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, winner of the Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup and indeed a World Cup finalist with the Netherlands.
Also, in the run up to the vote Ronaldo has only scored twice in La Liga so far this season – although he has netted eight goals in five games in the Champions League – and Real are already eight points behind Messi’s Barcelona.
Messi in contrast tops the Liga scoring charts with 13 goals and also secured a brilliant hat-trick for Argentina against Ecuador to clinch a last-gasp World Cup place in October, earning wide praise.
“Leo is like Maradona for those of our generation,” said Messi’s compatriot, Juventus striker Paulo Dybala, himself tipped as a future winner.
“He dragged us to the World Cup with the hat-trick in Ecuador. He is a born leader.”
Aside from Messi and Ronaldo the Ballon d’Or, originally conceived to honour only European players before going fully global in 2007, has three triple winners – Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco van Basten.
This year’s winner is being announced live on the L’Equipe television channel, the French sports daily being owned by the same company as France football.
Provided by AFP Sport
December is here which means one thing – the transfer window will soon be open.
The rumour mill is in top gear as clubs look to get deals set-up ahead of January 1.
Here, we examine the three big transfer stories dominating headlines around Europe today.
Will any of the following deals happen?
The Chilean was close to joining City in the summer and is out of contract at the conclusion of this year.
Frightening to consider City could add even more ammunition to their attack but they are apparently willing to pay the £50million it would take to sign him in January.
However, the price seems incredibly high considering he will be available for free in the summer coupled to the fact he’s looked dreadfully short of form, scoring five goals in 14 appearances in all competitions.
Walcott is yet to make a single start under Arsene Wenger this season and could seek a move in January to gain more game time.
Having brought in a plethora of No10s in the summer, the Toffees were left dreadfully short of goals in attack with Lukaku departing for Manchester United.
A marriage of convenience could see Walcott move to Goodison Park although he will likely need to take a pay cut with his reported current £110,000 per week wages a potential sticking point.
Manchester United are increasingly confident they can tie up a £50million deal for Tottenham left-back Danny Rose.
According to the Daily Mail, the England international could sign next month or during the summer transfer window.
United were keen to sign Rose last summer but missed out because he was recovering from a long-term knee injury.
Spurs were also unwilling to sell another full-back after Kyle Walker joined Manchester City but Rose has been omitted from matchday squads sparking talk he could be moved on.
Al Jazira’s cubs will “fight like lions” in their bid to secure a berth in the Club World Cup’s quarter-finals, according to coach Henk ten Cate.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi are carrying the hopes of the host nation when the competition returns to the UAE for the first time in seven years, from December 6-16. They will need to navigate a tricky play-off against tournament veterans Auckland City of New Zealand at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Wednesday night (21:00 kick-off) before they can dream of meeting the likes of UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid, AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds or Copa Libertadores champions Gremio.
Problems on and off the pitch have negatively impacted a poor Arabian Gulf League title defence, lauded foreign additions such as Uzbekistan forward Sardor Rashidov and ex-France anchor Lassana Diarra barely featuring. This has led to opportunities for the likes of 19-year-old midfield powerhouse Eissa Al Otaibah and 20-year-old full-back Mohamed Al Attas, a situation Ten Cate is happy to repeat this evening against the part-timers.
“We have faced some difficulties, especially with our foreign players,” said the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant. “We often played with just one foreign player, for different circumstances.
“We have given young players the chance to play for the first team and at the end, it is a big bonus.
“Regardless of the result, I know we will fight like lions.”
— #ClubWC 🇦🇪🏆 (@FIFAcom) December 5, 2017
A pre-match boost for Jazira is the return of pivotal Morocco midfielder Mbark Boussoufa after a month sidelined by injury. This partly compensates for the losses of Mohamed Jamal and Mohammed Fawzi.
In contrast to the tournament debutants, Auckland are seasoned performers at this level. The Navy Blues’ domination of the OFC Champions League makes this year’s edition a ninth entry, 2014’s run to third place their best return.
The ISPS Handa Premiership leaders – who include a driver and restaurant worker in their ranks – will plan to threaten with an attacking trio of Emiliano Tade, Ryan De Vries and Callum McCowatt.
“We understand Al Jazira is a very good rival,” said Spanish coach Ramon Tribulietx.
“This is the next level of football, we play week in week out at a different level. But we’ve been here before, we understand what it takes.”
مغادرة فخر أبوظبي مقر إقامته متجهين لملعب التدريبات بنادي العين #مع_الفخر_لأجل_الوطن
Team departure ⚽️
Will be LIVE soon pic.twitter.com/HTWWZuB0Bx
— نادي الجزيرة (@AlJazira_uae) December 4, 2017
This contest acts as a preamble for bigger ties to come, largely at Abu Dhabi’s redeveloped Zayed Sports City. Ten Cate instructed his players not to get distracted by potential future glamour matches
He said: “If people keep talking about Real Madrid, it is disrespectful to Auckland and Urawa.”
Madrid land on Monday, ahead of Wednesday’s semi-finals.
Urawa, CONCACAF Champions League winners Pachuca, CAF Champions League holders Wydad Casablanca and Wednesday evening’s victors will all play in Saturday’s quarter-finals at ZSC.