Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to land the Ballon d'Or award in Zurich tonight ahead of fellow contenders Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer.
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The Portuguese's 31 goals in 30 La Liga appearances in conjunction with leading Real Madrid to UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey titles has put him as firm favourite to win a second consecutive title.
A poor World Cup in Brazil could work against him. Still, the question remains: Will Cristiano Ronaldo be a worthy Ballon d’Or winner?
Our #360debate today is: Will Cristiano Ronaldo be the rightful winner of the Ballon d'Or?
Andy West, La Liga correspondent, says YES
Cristiano Ronaldo was the outstanding individual in world football in 2014 and should therefore be presented with his second consecutive Ballon d’Or today.
That’s fairly straightforward, isn’t it? If you need evidence, just look at the numbers. Ronaldo registered 61 goals in the calendar year, including four hat-tricks and one run of 11 consecutive games with a goal (February to April) and another of eight straight scoring games (August to October).
Not bad, huh? Oh, he also finished last season as the leading scorer in both La Liga and the Champions League – setting a new all-time competition record with 17 – and has started the new campaign by averaging nearly two goals per league game to put him on course to set another all-time single-season record.
As for the other contenders, Lionel Messi shouldn’t even be on the threeman shortlist at all (Diego Godin should, incidentally).
Okay, he’s scored a decent number of goals, but he notably failed to deliver when it most mattered as Barcelona endured their first season without a trophy since 2008.
He was often a peripheral presence for Argentina during the World Cup, despite ludicrously ending up with the award as the best player of the tournament.
Although Neuer impressed during the World Cup for Germany, he was hardly stretched as Bayern Munich enjoyed a cakewalk in the Bundesliga, and was powerless to prevent a humiliating thumping at the hands of Ronaldo’s Real in his most important club game of the season, the Champions league semi-final second leg.
Of course, a significant aspect of personal greatness can be measured in the number of trophies won, and Ronaldo fared rather well in this aspect as Madrid won the Copa del Rey (beating Messi’s Barcelona), the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
As for the World Cup, it’s hardly Ronaldo’s fault that he has the misfortune of playing in the same international team as Nani.
Would Cristiano Ronaldo be a worthy winner of the Ballon d’Or? The only sensible question is who should come second.
James Piercy, deputy editor, says NO
There’s only one man who will surely be clutching the Ballon d’Or trophy tonight, but it shouldn’t be as much of a formality as is being forcast. In an age where we now have fans of players as well as teams, Cristiano Ronaldo’s acolytes point to his scoring
record as the primary piece of evidence supporting his case.
At face value 61 goals in 58 games for club and country is remarkable but, if that is a major factor in swaying the voting, it’s
not that much better than Lionel Messi’s 58 in 66.
In breaking down his 61 goals, 28 were inconsequential i.e were not opening goals, equalisers, goals that put Madrid ahead or match-winners. The sheer volume he scored dictates that is likely, but at the same time still dimishes their significance in the grand scheme of things.
Of his 39 in La Liga in the calendar year, 14 – 35 per cent – came against top- 10 opposition. For context, 16 of Messi’s 35 league goals over the same period were against those sides (45 per cent).
Ronaldo’s success is almost as notable for the matches he didn’t perform in as much as the ones he did. The 4-0 triumph over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final second leg was the high water mark for Carlo Ancelotti’s side but their three best performers on that night were Sergio Ramos, Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale.
He was also largely irrelevant in the final against Atletico, only appearing to smash in a 120th minute penalty with the score at 3-1. The very best perform when the stakes are at their highest, not against Elche in a Sunday afternoon stroll.
There are worthier candidates either overlooked or lacking the populist appeal: Diego Godin, central to Atletico Madrid’s remarkable season, Philipp Lahm – who completed a clean sweep of captaining sides to major honours (within the space of 15 months), Di Maria – whose creativity was equally as influential to Madrid’s season as Ronaldo, and then Manuel Neuer, reinventing the position of the goalkeeper and who also won a Bundesliga title, a DFB Pokal and the World Cup.
Ronaldo is the obvious victor, the poster boy of individualism, the standout stats line. But that doesn’t automatically mean he’s the best.
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Despite seeing his team return to winning ways after a concerning dip in form, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti still had to defuse a growing controversy in the wake of his team’s comfortable victory over Espanyol on Saturday.
Gareth Bale played a significant role in the 3-0 win, providing a wonderful cross-field pass to Cristiano Ronaldo in the build-up to
But the Welshman still drew the scorn of sections of the Bernabeu crowd after slotting a simple chance wide in the second half
when he could have squared the ball to give Ronaldo a tap-in, sparking a frustrated response from the Portuguese.
Some fans whistled Bale the next time he received the ball, and although many immediately responded by applauding the Welshman and chanting his name, it was still a hot topic for Ancelotti to address when he assessed the game – especially as Bale had been accused of a similar act of selfishness in the previous loss at Valencia.
The Italian said: “The relationship between the players, not just between those two, is very good and the team has always shown that.”
Ancelotti’s claim that his side’s two most expensive players enjoy a good relationship appeared to be backed up by Ronaldo’s smiling, appreciative reaction to Bale’s free-kick goal, and he added: “We shouldn’t start a fuss over these things. Selflessness is important in a team and if there are any moments of selfishness, we will address it. But it’s a moment in football that happens often and I don’t think it’s fair to carry on talking about this subject.”
Ancelotti preferred to dwell on the positives of Bale’s performance, adding: “Bale put in a very, very good match. He played with intensity and scored a goal.
“He is a fundamental player for us, like Cristiano, and that’s why the fans demand more from them than
He also defended Ronaldo after La Liga’s leading marksman failed to score in a home league game for the first time since September 2013, and has now only netted one penalty in his last five games.
“Cristiano looks the same as always to me,” said Ancelotti. “He’s in great physical condition, playing for the team. His assist on the first goal was fantastic. He looks the same to me as always.”
Ancelotti also ridiculed rumours that French defender Raphael Varane is poised for a surprise transfer to Bayern Munich.
Spanish media reports claimed that Bayern boss Pep Guardiola had met with super-agent Jorge Mendes to negotiate the deal, but Ancelotti said: “It’s strange because I met with Varane’s agent three days ago and he wasn’t Jorge Mendes.
“He will be a Real Madrid player for a very long time.”
Barcelona responded to a turbulent week by producing one of their best performances of the season to beat champions Atletico Madrid 3-1 at the Nou Camp.
Neymar put the hosts ahead after 12 minutes and Luis Suarez doubled their advantage before the break.
Mario Mandzukic pulled one back for Diego Simeone's side after Lionel Messi had given away a penalty but the Argentinian sealed the points for the Catalans late on with a close-range finish.
It was a fitting way for Barcelona's all-time top scorer to round off a superb performance and draw a line under a week of uncertainty following Luis Enrique's decision to leave him out of the starting line-up for last week's 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.
Barcelona failed to beat Atletico on any of the six occasions the two teams met last season, but it was clear with even only a few minutes on the clock that they were not going to be denied victory this time.
Sevilla climbed up to fourth place in the Primera Division standings thanks to a 2-0 away win at Almeria on Sunday.
Vicente Iborra opened the scoring for the visitors in the 58th minute before Coke wrapped up the points with Sevilla's second goal five minutes later.
The result puts Los Rojiblancos two points behind third-placed Atletico Madrid, while Almeria remained just two points clear of the bottom three.
Fran Rico rescued a much-needed point as his Granada side claimed a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad at Los Carmenes on Sunday night.
Carlos Vela handed the visitors the lead by converting a penalty 10 minutes before the break and Fran Rico equalised, also from the spot, deep into the second half.
The point left Granada three points from safety at the bottom of the Primera Division after fellow strugglers Elche earlier saw off Athletic Bilbao 2-1, while David Moyes' side moved up a spot into 12th – but just two points behind ninth-placed Celta Vigo.
Elche moved off the foot of the Primera Division standings on Sunday courtesy of a 2-1 victory at Athletic Bilbao.
Victor Rodriguez put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute at San Mames and Faycal Fajr doubled their advantage eight minutes into the second half.
Mikel San Jose pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute but that was as good as it got for the hosts, as Elche – thrashed 5-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey in midweek and beset by financial troubles – held on for only their third win in La Liga this term.