Cristiano Ronaldo wins UEFA's Best Player in Europe Award

Sport360 staff 25/08/2016

Ronaldo, 31, received the accolade for the second time in his career after finishing ahead of Real team-mate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.

“I’m obviously delighted to receive this award, it’s been an incredible season. But these two other players deserve it as well,” said Ronaldo, who also won the prize in 2013-14.

Ronaldo struck the winning spot-kick as Real claimed a record 11th European Cup title, beating city rivals Atletico on penalties in May, before leading his country to Euro 2016 glory.

Ronaldo scored three goals en route to the final of the tournament to equal France’s Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in the European Championship finals.

The award was voted for by journalists from each of UEFA’s 55 member associations.

Norway striker Ada Hegerberg won the women’s award, ahead of France’s Amandine Henry and Dzsenifer Marozsan of Germany, after helping Lyon lift the Women’s Champions League trophy in addition to the French league and cup double.


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IN PICS: Gareth Bale's greatest moments at Real Madrid

Sport360 staff 24/08/2016

Gareth Bale has spent three trophy-laden seasons with Real Madrid and is now on the brink of extending his stay at the Bernabeu to 2021 with a lucrative new deal.

Despite an initial turbulent period, the Welshman slowly but surely found his footing, demonstrating the worth of his world-record transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.

Spanish newspaper Marca report that the 27-year-old’s annual earnings are set to reach €10m, surpassing club favourite Sergio Ramos’ alleged salary and becoming the club’s second highest paid player behind only Cristiano Ronaldo.

In anticipation of this renewed commitment, Sport360 selects snapshots detailing the Welsh phenomenon’s illustrious career in Madrid thus far.

What have you made of Bale’s time with Real and do you think he is becoming a more important player in Zinedine Zidane’s lineup than Ronaldo?

Have your say by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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#360view: Bale ready to be Madrid’s alpha male

Andy West 23/08/2016
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Bale started the season in fine fashion.

When it comes to making an early statement of intent, scoring a goal just 72 seconds into your team’s opening league fixture isn’t too shabby.

Gareth Bale is back, and after spearheading his country’s unlikely progression to the European Championships semi-finals, now the Welsh star is ready to take La Liga by storm again.

With both Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo absent through injury from Real Madrid’s season opener at Real Sociedad on Sunday, Los Blancos were looking for Bale to step up and perform a leadership role in a fixture which on paper looked decidedly tricky.

His early goal did just that, settling his team’s nerves and providing the foundations for a comfortable 3-0 victory which also saw Bale have the last word as he netted the final goal in stoppage time.

There is now absolutely no room for doubt over Bale’s importance at the Bernabeu. His place in the starting line-up is unquestioned, and there is a growing train of thought that he is gradually displacing Ronaldo as the team’s most important player.

You could even argue he has already achieved that status following his outstanding performances towards the end of last season.
In Madrid’s climactic and most important game of the campaign, the Champions League final against Atletico, it was Bale – not Ronaldo – who drove the team forward.

The enduring image of that evening might be Ronaldo wheeling away in celebration after netting the title-clinching penalty, but Los Blancos probably wouldn’t have got as far as the shoot-out without Bale’s dominant performance in the opening half-hour – culminating when he won a free-kick and then flicked on Toni Kroos’ delivery for Sergio Ramos to scramble in the opener.

Bale had also made the decisive intervention to take Madrid into the final in the first place, securing the only goal of the semi-final meeting with Manchester City as his cross deflected off Fernando and looped into Joe Hart’s goal.

A few weeks earlier, the Welshman also delivered a man-of-the-match performance in the game which arguably turned the tide for Zinedine Zidane’s previously unconvincing time in charge: the 2-1 Clasico victory at the Nou Camp, when he was extremely unfortunate to have a goal disallowed for a supposed push before teeing up Ronaldo for the late winner.

Buzzing that the seasons started and even happier with the 3 points #halamadrid

A photo posted by Gareth Bale (@garethbale11) on

It marks an extremely impressive turnaround in fortunes from 12 months ago. Bale was entering the new campaign under Rafa Benitez with his future far from certain. He had produced a poor second season in Spain, especially in the latter stages when their challenge for silverware under Carlo Ancelotti withered away to nothing, and many felt he would not last the course.

Rather than becoming disheartened, Bale earned himself enormous credit by staying positive and working harder to fit into both the team and life in general, making a greater effort to learn and use the Spanish language, as well as doing more to integrate himself with the local community.

The results are plain to see, as even a series of injury problems didn’t prevent him from accepting more responsibilities for the functioning of the team, propelling him into his current new-found status among the Bernabeu’s alpha males.

Tactically, his biggest improvement has been a greater commitment to his defensive duties, with his willingness to track back and close down opposition wingers and full-backs a stark contrast to his casual approach to those chores during Ancelotti’s tenure.

Bale has simply become more mature, both in terms of his football and his mentality. He has come to terms with the demands of being the most expensive player at the world’s most wealthy club, and is flourishing.

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