Cristiano Ronaldo was voted the best men’s player in the world for the second year running at Fifa’s The Best awards gala yesterday evening.
The Real Madrid striker saw off Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and PSG’s Neymar for the gong which is voted for by national team coaches and captains, plus the media and fans.
The Best Fifa Men’s Player award and the Ballon d’or, which is voted for only by the media, are now separate awards.
While Ronaldo has the upper hand on his rival Messi when it comes to the most recent Fifa award, how do the pair compare when it comes to honours achieved across the board?
While Messi’s domestic honours have all been won entirely at Barcelona, Ronaldo’s achievements include a highly productive six-year stint at Manchester United.
The Portuguese won eight trophies in nearly 200 appearances in English football before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.
Messi’s superior club record tally, however, owes much to Barcelona’s superiority in the Spanish Super Cup and the Spanish Cup or Copa del Rey, with Barca winning the trophy for the last three years.
Messi single-handedly booked Argentina’s place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a hat-trick in their final group qualifier against Ecuador earlier this month.
“I told the group that Messi does not owe Argentina a World Cup, but rather football owes the world to him,” Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli said after Messi rescued their campaign.
Messi’s heroics went a long way to debunking a myth that he fails to deliver on the international stage, albeit away from the main event itself.
Ronaldo was injured during the first half of the European Championship final CREDIT: REUTERS
It’s an accusation that has been levelled at Ronaldo as well but Portugal’s success at last year’s European Championships has since lifted the load on his shoulders, even if he was an injured onlooker from the bench as Portugal saw off hosts France in Paris last summer.
Messi tasted success on the international stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but Argentina have fallen short in the final of the 2014 World Cup and were also runners-up in the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas, the latter defeat seeing him briefly retire from international football.
Messi has the edge when it comes to Ballon d’Or awards, but the breakaway Fifa The Best award has allowed Ronaldo to move clear in the overall individual honours table.
Looking at the major individual awards you can receive as a professional footballer, the Portuguese has a somewhat surprising edge over his rival – but only just.
While the two cannot be split in terms of European Golden Boot or La Liga top scorer awards, Ronaldo holds an advantage in Uefa’s Best Player in Europe gong and the Champions League top scorer trophy.
Messi has also never won the Fifa Puskas Award, the prize handed out for the most aesthetically significant, or “most beautiful”, goal of the year.
The Argentine was runner-up in 2011 and 2015, while Ronaldo picked up the award in its inaugural year in 2009. Ronaldo’s 35-yard thunderbolt for Manchester United against Porto also secured United’s progress into the Champions League semi-finals.
“Cristiano is the best player of his generation by far. He makes the differences in key matches and he deserves all the prizes he has won.”
That has been the assessment of Real coach Zinedine Zidane this season who dismissed Messi in his calculations. While the Portuguese has taken giant strides trying to keep up with Messi’s achievements, and moving past them in others such as individual awards count, the 30-year-old Argentine still holds a lead of four overall to date.
But with the Ballon d’Or to come at the turn of the year, and the World Cup coming up next summer, it remains all to play for.