Ronaldo: I'd vote for Lionel Messi
ZURICH -- On the eve of the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or award in Switzerland, Brazil legend Ronaldo said on Sunday he believes Lionel Messi's troubled last few months should not prevent the Argentine from edging out Cristiano Ronaldo for the award.
A three-time winner of the trophy, Ronaldo reckons that even a phenomenal season by many people's standards from his Portuguese namesake still isn’t enough to deny Messi from his fifth Ballon win.
"Cristiano has been amazing this year. But he has been like that in the last five years. Messi is a more spectacular player and I would vote for him if I had the chance," said the Brazilian, who will take part in Monday's gala as part of his duties in the Brazil 2014 Organising Commitee.
The three nominees -- Messi, Franck Ribery and Ronaldo -- have all had stellar seasons leading up to Monday’s award ceremony. Messi topped La Liga’s 2012-13 scoring charts with 46 goals and 12 assists in 32 games.
Ribery, meanwhile, led a super-powered Bayern team to a Bundesliga/Champions League/UEFA Super Cup treble in 2013 and has already been crowned UEFA’s Best Player in Europe for the calendar year.
Ronaldo tallied 34 goals and 10 assists last season along with 20 and 4 in 17 Liga games this term, not to mention his decisive hat-trick vs. Sweden in November that propelled Portugal into the 2014 World Cup -- and coincided with FIFA’s decision to extend the voting deadline.
Despite the Portuguese star’s stellar year, the Brazilian Ronaldo believes the results will probably be the tightest in the history of the Ballon D'Or, especially with the inclusion of the Bayern attacker. Having spent the past few days on a promotional visit to Germany, the Brazilian told ESPNFC.com that the Frenchman could contribute to a significant splitting of the vote.
"A lot of people in Germany told me that the credibility of the Ballon D'Or could be affected if Ribery does not win it. This could have influenced the vote, even after Cristiano had that performance against Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers. The only certainty is that this Ronaldo here won't win it for a fourth time," he joked.
The Brazilian won back-to-back trophies in 1996 and '97, seeing off other nominees George Weah and Zinedine Zidane with ease. His third accolade came in 2002, after the striker came back from a horrendous series of knee injuries to help Brazil to their fifth World Cup title, scoring eight goals in Japan and South Korea. Germany goalkeeper Oliver Khan was the runner-up.
"To be honest, winning the World Cup was much more important to me. Maybe winning the Ballon d'Or the year before the tournament is not a good omen," he said, referring to the fact the Selecao ended up soundly beaten by France in the 1998 World Cup final.
The winner of the Ballon d’Or -- along with other awards like FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, Men’s and Women’s Football Coach of the Year, FIFA Fair Play Award and the Puskas Award for best goal of 2013 -- will be announced in Zurich on Monday.