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SL Ballon D’Or Top 10 – Nr 1: Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portugal and Real Madrid forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, was voted world’s number 1 by the Soccer-Laduma journalists.

Similar to his counterpart, Lionel Messi, the 28-year-old is arguably regarded as the best player in today’s game and one of the greatest of all time.

Ronaldo is known for his quality finishing, his enormous pace as well as dribbling and crossing ability. Although he was unable to win any trophies with Real Madrid this year, Ronaldo may have his strongest case to push Lionel Messi of the FIFA Ballon d’Or throne.

At the age of eight, Ronaldo played for Portuguese amateur team Andorinha and two years later joined Nacional, but from there he moved quickly on to Sporting Lisbon. At the club’s youth academy, he became the only player to ever play for Sportings’ U-16, U-17, U-18, B-side, and the first team, all within one season.

At the age of 15, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a racing heart, a condition that might have forced him to give up on playing football, but a laser surgery cauterised the area of his heart that was causing the problem.

In November 2002, Arsene Wenger seemed interested in signing him and Ronaldo’s representatives suggested him to Liverpool and FC Barcelona officials. However, it was Sir Alex Ferguson who signed Ronaldo as an 18-year-old for Manchester United.

He moved to United for €15m and made his first team debut in the 2002-03 season. Despite wanting to wear the numer 28 shirt, Ferguson gave Ronaldo the famous number seven previously assigned to the likes of George Best and Eric Cantona.

He scored 10 goals in his first United season and won the FA Cup, where he scored one of three goals in United’s 3-0 final win. He won his second trophy in English football in the 2005-06 season, contributing the third goal in Manchester United’s 4-0 League Cup final victory.

The 2006-07 season proved to be the breakout year for Ronaldo, as he broke the 20 goal barrier for United and picked up his first Premier League title with the Red Devils. In April 2007, he signed a new contract and became United’s highest-paid player in team history.

The following campaign was to prove his best in a Red Devils shirt and Ronaldo scored a stunning total of 42 goals in 49 games as United won the Premier League. He scored the opening goal in the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea, which ended 1-1, and despite missing his penalty in the penalty shoot-out, United emerged victorious and Ronaldo was named Man of the Match.

Midway through the season 2007-08, he became third in the running for the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year award, behind Kaka and Lionel Messi. At the end of the campaign, rumours of his move to Real Madrid had already started circulating, but United stood firm and kept Ronaldo for one more season at Old Trafford.

At the turn of the year 2008, he won the FIFA World Player of the Year award ahead of Lionel Messi and won the Club World Cup. He helped United with 26 goals in all competitions to a second consecutive Premier League title and an appearance in the 2009 Champions League final, which they lost 2-0 against Barcelona.

In June 2009, Ronaldo moved for €94m to Real Madrid, which made him history’s most expensive footballer at the time. Real set his buyout clause for €1billion and he proved to be worth every cent spent by scoring 230 goals in 223 games in all competitions since moving to Bernabeau.

At Real, he became second in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 Ballon d’Or, he won the 2010-11 Copa del Rey, the 2011-12 La Liga title and the 2012 Supercopa de Espana. The Los Blancos have recently extended his contract to €21m per year (after taxes), which makes him the highest-paid footballer in the world.

On international level, the Portuguese has made his national team debut in August 2003. He has scored 47 goals in 109 games for his country and has participated in five major tournaments – EURO’s in 2004, 2008 and 2012 as well the 2006 and 2010 World Cup.

He finished runner-up with his country at the EURO 2004 and reached the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup and 2012 EURO. He is Portugal’s joint top goal-scorer and captains his country since July 2008. Ronaldo has literally shot Portugal alone to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when he scored four goals in the two qualifying matches against Sweden.

In January 2013, Ronaldo scored his 300th club goal, but later on could not prevent his side from losing 3-4 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final to Borussia Dortmund. In addition, his goal in the 2013 Copa del Rey final was not enough to beat Atletico and that’s why Ronaldo finished the 2012-13 season trophy-less.

In the new season, he scored 20 goals in 18 La Liga matches and recently moved to fourth spot in Real Madrid’s all-time goal scorer list. He also set up a new Champions League record with nine goals during this campaign’s group stage phase.

The Portuguese himself responded on the comparison between himself and Lionel Messi the following: "Some people say I'm better, other people say it's him, but at the end of the day, they're going to decide who is the best player. He does the best things for Barcelona, I do the best things for Madrid. I think we push each other sometimes in the competition, this is why the competition is so high.”

There is nothing more to say, besides that the Soccer Laduma team feels this has been Cristiano Ronaldo’s year and based on his individual performances and another goal-drenched year he deserves to be world’s number one in 2013.

By David Kappel

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