As Cristiano Ronaldo lifted his second FIFA Ballon D'Or, many are asking the question, 'Is The Portuguese the Greatest Footballer of all time' or will there always be question marks over his greatness till he wins a FIFA World Cup or even an European Championship with Portugal? (In pics: Awards ceremony | Father Ronaldo wins award, son Ronaldo wins hearts)
That the 29 year old Ronaldo was going to win another FIFA Ballon D'Or seemed inevitable given his scoring record in 2014 and his trophy haul. Sure he scored only from the penalty spot in the UEFA Champions League final, but it was his 17 goals in the tournament that allowed Real to bring home La Decima. And the Portuguese did score 61 goals in 60 games in a single calendar year for both club and country. This season he's already scored 33 goals in 28 games and is on course to break Lionel Messi's record of 73 goals in 60 games from the 2011-2012 season.
Between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, it's always difficult to choose whose the better player. Personally, I will always pick the Portuguese over the Argentine. Not because I am a lifelong Manchester United fan or that Ronaldo spent 6 wonderful years at Old Trafford. But because for me the Portuguese has proved himself to be a top class player not just in England, but in Spain as well. Maybe if Messi does ever make that elusive move to West London, then I might be forced to change my opinion.
And shouldn't winning a FIFA World Cup be the pinnacle in the career of any footballer? Which is why my heart goes out to Manuel Neuer. He won the Bundesliga and German Cup with Bayern Munich and his performances with Die Manschafft in Brazil 2014 reminded me more of a sweeper than a keeper. But maybe that just tells how much weightage FIFA gives to great goal scorers than to a FIFA World Cup winner. In 2010 Andres Iniesta should have been crowned winner of the FIFA Ballon D'Or, yet Lionel Messi won it. Two years later, when Xavi Hernandez led Spain to back to back European Championship titles, once again Messi won it. But in neither of those seasons did Barcelona win the UEFA Champions League. In both seasons, they were beaten in the semi-finals. First by Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan and then by Robert di Matteo's Chelsea. Both of whom went on to claim the holy grail of club football.
To say that Ronaldo had a poor 2014 FIFA World Cup is an understatement. Yes he was carrying an injury to Brazil. But that's no excuse for his poor showing. He simply looked tired and out of form. At Real Madrid, he has the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez to fall back on. Angel di Maria too was there last season, providing enough assists for the Portuguese to score from. With Portugal, Ronaldo however lacks these world class players. And no, Pepe is not world class. Sometimes it's difficult for even the greatest to carry a mediocre team on their own. Just ask Messi. Or for that matter Sachin Tendulkar. It took him 22 years to win a World Cup after carrying team India singlehandedly through the 1990s and early 2000.
Pele won three World Cups and that 1970 Brazilian side is probably the greatest in my view to have lifted the trophy. And he only received an honorary FIFA Ballon D'Or in 2014. Diego Maradona single handedly won the 1986 FIFA World Cup for Argentina and he too only a received an honorary Ballon D'Or in 1996. But even that Argentine team had some class players like Jose Luis Brown, Nery Pumpido, Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga and they did it without the likes of Daniel Passarella and Ramon Diaz.
But in an era when some of the game's greats like Ryan Giggs don't even get to play a single world cup, let alone two, then maybe Ronaldo can be considered the greatest. After all, George Best never even played a FIFA World Cup, and for me- He truly was the best!