Pulidor v Anquetil
Xabier Fortes said it to me last summer and repeated the idea yesterday in AS writing an article about the fact that Cristiano refuses to play second fiddle to Leo Messi (he used the analogy of cyclists Pulidor and Anquetil who disputed a fierce rivalry during the 60's). The player from Madeira has learnt to co-exist with the sublime talent that is the Argentinian player. As Messi was breaking through at Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo won his first Ballon d'Or award with Manchester United. Messi won the four subsequent awards and there was a feeling that he would make a clean sweep until retirement age. Cristiano Ronaldo however has upped his game, winning two of the past three prizes.
How is Cristiano Ronaldo a better player than Messi is a question frequently directed at me in my online-chats, specifically from Barça fans. I answer them by citing his perseverance. He lacks the magic of Messi, but has developed a body of exceptional athletic proportions which helps him in running, shooting and aids him in being stronger on the ball. Both players are excellent marksmen with Cristiano having developed a knack for constant goal scoring. The player from Madeira refused to settle for second place and has gone out of his way in his struggle to be the best.
In my opinion that merit in Cristiano Ronaldo winning four Ballon d'Or awards is that three of these were a direct tussle with the Barcelona no. 10. Messi's merit is having won five and also the fact that he has adapted his style of play and undoubtedly has many more Ballon d'Or awards ahead of him. This year it was his turn to take second place on the podium. Atleti's Griezmann also takes his place at the same table as Cristiano and Messi. The French striker came close to winning both the Champions League final and Euro 2016 (both titles incidentally won by Cristiano). Securing these trophy's is one of the main reasons that Cristiano ousts Messi on the podium this year. A podium that coincidentally corresponds with the way I voted.