For much of Cristiano Ronaldo‘s career he has been in direct competition with Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi, both for club and individual honours, so it’s fitting that the Real Madrid superstar has the same number of Ballon d’Or awards.
Ronaldo beat Messi and seven of his Champions League-winning Real teammates on Thursday to claim the award for the second straight year and fifth time overall, drawing level with Messi and reaffirming his place as equal partner in the greatest player rivalry the game has ever seen.
However Ronaldo, who will travel to Russia in 2018 in search of World Cup triumph after winning the European Championships in 2016, is not content with his record-equalling haul.
“I want seven. Five is good but seven is my lucky number so seven would be great,” he said to French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“I want seven children (he has four) and seven Ballons d’Or.”
Ronaldo winning the award is as historic as it is expected. Ronaldo was 10-1 on with British bookmakers before the announcement, who stopped taking bets on the Portuguese once it became clear he was going to rewarded for his role in Real’s phenomenal 2016-17 season, in which they pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title and became the first ever European champions to defend their crown in the Champions League era.
Ronaldo scored 12 goals in the Champions League last season, including knockout stage hat-tricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid and two in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the Cardiff final, and 25 in La Liga.
The 32-year-old has got off to a slow start in La Liga this season but has scored a barely believable nine goals in the Champions League group stage, another amazing achievement in a career full of triumphs.
– Destined for greatness –
Ronaldo was special from an early age. In the year of his 16th birthday, he played for Sporting Lisbon’s under-16, under-17, under-18, reserve and first teams, and two years later he so impressed Alex Ferguson in a 2003 pre-season friendly that the then-Manchester United boss snapped him up.
Six years, three Premier League titles and a Champions League later and he was on his way to Real Madrid, having joined George Best and Eric Cantona among the greatest players to wear United’s prized number 7 shirt.
Bought for a then-world record €94million, Ronaldo has more than paid back his fee, and while Barcelona have continued to dominate La Liga – last season’s league title was just his second in Madrid – he has become the king of European competition as Real racked up three Champions Leagues in the last four seasons.
In that time Ronaldo became the first player to score 100 Champion League goals, and topped the competition’s scoring charts five times. The 17 goals he scored as Real beat local rivals Atletico to the 2014 title remains a single-season record.
After a career filled with club success, Ronaldo finally got an international monkey off his back in 2016, winning the European Championship with Portugal after a lifetime of near misses and flattering to deceive on the world stage.
In winning the competition, beating the heavily-favoured hosts France in the final, he broke yet another record – his three goals made him the first player to ever score in four European Championships.
The personal and team success has convinced one man that he belongs among the best to ever play the game.
“When I finish my career, I will look at the statistics to see if I’m among the best,” Ronaldo added. “Surely I will be.”
Provided by AFP Sport
Inspired by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, tipped for success by Brazil legend Kaka and drawing interest from European giants like Paris Saint-Germain, Dubai-based teenager Yahya Ali is quite the prodigy.
Indeed, the 19-year-old attacker has a high ceiling and his lofty ambitions stretch beyond that but after dominating a recent adidas tournament in Moscow, Ali is a future football star.
The former Al Ahli youth product tore up the adidas Tango League final last month – a competition which brings together some of the world’s most skillful 16-25 year olds – after he was crowned Dubai’s MVP following a 3v3 regional qualifying tournament.
Blessed with heavy swagger on the pitch, Ali marries his talent to a level head off it, and you only need to peruse his social media channels for a window of his exponential ability.
Having been given the perfect platform by adidas, the talented teenager is unapologetically ambitious and he has no problem articulating that fact. After all, even Kaka recognised his flair.
“To be honest, playing in the Tango League was the best thing that’s happened in my life up until this point,” Ali tells Sport360.
“I met so many players and to speak with Kaka when I’m a Milan and Brazil fan was so special.
“I spoke to him and he gave me some really good advice to the effect of telling me to work really hard on my game.
“He told me I had the skills and that I played like a Brazilian after watching me in 11v11 at the Luzhniki Stadium which was just amazing to hear.
“I know that everything is dependent on me now if I want to make it as a pro in Europe but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As a Brazil fan, Ali appreciates footballers who hurt opponents with skill. Hallmarked by poise and panache, he has naturally drawn comparisons with Samba stars Neymar and Robinho and there is a possibility he’ll join the former in the future.
PSG and La Liga side Malaga are just two of the big names expressing an interest in signing Ali and having previously spent a month on trial with Man United, he is happy to embrace the challenge should it arise in the New Year.
“The most important thing for me is to get minutes and show my ability, especially at my age now,” he adds.”I’ve grown up playing football in Dubai so I didn’t know any different but then when I went to Manchester United, I saw the level you need to perform at.
“Not just the level in terms of footballing ability, but their mentality.
“I was training with Marcus Rashford with the U15s but after two days he got sent to the U20s.
“From the moment I saw him in the first-team I said to myself that it is possible.
“If you work hard you can make it because to be honest, he worked very, very hard and you could see that early on.
“It’s so different in Europe from that perspective because I think in the Gulf region, no young player is dreaming big.
“They’re not thinking about becoming a big name in football, they just want to secure their future by playing for a club with a stable contract which will pay them good money.
“For me, I don’t want the money. I’m looking to be a big name, to make the UAE and Dubai football proud. The financial reward may come as a result of me reaching my aim but it’s not the sole focus.”
The World has opened up for Al Jazira.
Unconvincing as they were in Wednesday night’s opener at a mild Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against tournament veterans Auckland City, Brazilian forward Romarinho’s emphatic daisy cutter just before the break put the Pride of Abu Dhabi on the path which could include a cherished meeting with European grandees Real Madrid.
Yet, they are a long way from turning their dream into reality if this patchy display against amateur opposition is repeated when AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds run-out at a renovated Zayed Sports City in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Ravaged by injuries and withdrawals, the Arabian Gulf League’s holders failed to find any fluency as the Club World Cup experienced a low-key return to the UAE for the first time in seven years.
Auckland’s ninth entry saw them camped in the host’s half after the interval. Sometime UAE No1 Ali Khaseif earning the man-of-the-match honours, in part, for his point-blank, second-half save from one-cap New Zealand forward Ryan De Vries was illustrative.
How coach Henk ten Cate must long for stability in his selection. The absences, for a variety of reasons, of ex-France anchorman Lassana Diarra, utility man Mohammed Fawzi and midfield metronome Mohamed Jamal were particularly glaring.
Coltish defensive midfielders Mohamed Al Attas and Eissa Al Otaibah shrunk in the globe’s glare. Whites hot shot Ali Mabkhout stood statuesque in the chilly Al Ain night.
Judging by the weight of opportunities, the OFC Champions League’s dominant club did not deserve elimination during the play-offs in front of less than 5,000 supporters.
De Vries was a threat throughout for a team which included a driver and dishwasher. His weak shot was grasped by the grateful Khaseif in the 12th minute, young forward Callum McCowatt also spurning a similar opportunity before Romarinho’s moment arrived.
The summer addition from Qatar’s El Jaish raced onto a loose ball 20 yards from goal, a smart step over from referee Malang Diedhiou granting him space to lash in a memorable fifth strike in 14 appearances.
This effort from the 2012 CWC winner with Corinthians did not provide a necessary spark. Their paltry AGL title defence transferred to this gala competition.
Auckland’s control was continuous. A threatening volley from Mexican Fabrizio Tavano skimmed over, prior to De Vries’ final miss.
Jazira were left to celebrate at the end. But a berth in the sold-out semi-finals and finals appears a distant hope, on this evidence.
— #ClubWC 🇦🇪🏆 (@FIFAcom) December 6, 2017