Date:Tuesday December 2 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo won the 2008 Ballon d'Or award. France Football confirmed in the early hours that the United winger finished streets ahead of closest challenger Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo amassed 446 points and every single voter nominated him in their top five - a record. And of course there can be no doubt that he deserves it.
The facts are obvious: Ronaldo performed consistently well in Europe's most difficult league, finishing top scorer with an out-of-this-world 31 goals. He was also top scorer in the Champions League and scored United's only goal in that competition which we can safely call the biggest club competition.
Has anyone come even close to this? No. Lionel Messi is an absolutely delightful player but the Player of the Year award is not based on talent but performance. Iker Casillas saved Real Madrid on numerous occasions in the league but they got knocked out in the last 16 of the CL by Roma and though Spain won the Euros, I don't see that Casillas was any special there. He had very little to do: Spain's irresistible midfield totally dominated every game so apart from saving two penalties in the shootout against Italy he had a quite stress-free Euro.
Who else? Fernando Torres had a brilliant season but won nothing, finished behind Ronaldo in the top scorers' list in the Premier League and the Champions League as well. Scored the winner in the Euro final but otherwise he was quite average throughout the competition - as I said, the midfield carried them all the way.
Xavi was also mooted but Barcelona's rotten form ruled him out - after all, did he decide games on his own? Did he save his club on many occasions? No, and that's precisely what Ronaldo DID.
So there can be no argument against Ronaldo, if we look at the facts. Since the autumn of 2006 he's been the most consistently brilliant player in Europe and this award is a well-deserved recognition for his sustained excellence. I just wish it didn't come on the back of a stupid red card at Man Citeh...
Date:Tuesday December 2 2008
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