The 28-year-old wiped his eyes as he thanked his family and team-mates, before concluding his quick speech: “If I have forgotten anyone, I’m sorry, because I’m deeply moved.”
Ronaldo, the overwhelming favourite to win the award ahead of the ceremony, clearly fully believed that it was going to be his night as he brought along his mother, girlfriend and son.
But in truth, convincing cases could have been made for all of the three shortlisted nominees for this year’s prize. The sheer quality of the trio was underlined by the fact that they suffered a mere 14 defeats between them in 2013.
I would like to congratulate Cristiano for winning, he deserves it. I’ve got no complaints or excuses, the best man won
In the end, Ronaldo’s numbers gave him the edge. The Real Madrid attacker finished the year trophyless but scored a staggering 66 goals in 56 games for club and country, notching up 15 assists and creating 94 chances for his team-mates. He also netted all four goals in Portugal’s 4-2 aggregate play-off win over Sweden, which booked his country’s place at this summer’s World Cup.
Messi’s 42 goals helped Barcelona to the Spanish league title but the Argentina international’s admirers will point out that a couple of rare injuries heavily dented his hopes of a fifth straight win in Zurich.
Ribery, who scored 22 goals, made 18 assists and collected five trophies with Bayern Munich in 2013, could not break the Messi and Ronaldo duopoly.
There is clearly no love lost between Ronaldo and Messi, despite the pair having exchanged pleasantries at the pre-ceremony media conference on Monday.
“It’s a source of pride to play against players such as Messi,” said Ronaldo.
“We don’t need to go into the detail of the quality of the player next to me,” added Messi.
Courteous words, but neither of the two voted for each other. Ronaldo went for Radamel Falcao ahead of Gareth Bale and Mesut Ozil. Messi looked no further than the Camp Nou as he picked Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Neymar.
Nevertheless, the Barcelona star was quick to praise Ronaldo after the ceremony. “I would like to congratulate Cristiano for winning, he deserves it,” he said. “I’ve got no complaints or excuses, the best man won.”
The third-placed Ribery added: “What more could I have done other than to win absolutely everything with Bayern? Whether I finish second or third makes no difference. I’m no egoist and this title is not my aim – I’d rather win everything with Bayern all over again.”
Attempting to hide what this award really means to him, Ronaldo said ahead of the glitzy gala: “If I win, fine – if I don’t life goes on.”
His final words before flying back to Madrid were more revealing: “I hope to be back next year to win the third Ballon d’Or of my career. That’s what I intend to do.”
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