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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo earned FIFA award for big moments, not a brilliant year

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has claimed his rivalry with Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi is just starting.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo explains what it means to win the 2017 Best FIFA Men's Player Award for a fifth time.
Craig Burley and Alexis Nunes sift through Cristiano Ronaldo's stats from 2017 as he claimed the Best FIFA Men's Player award.
As FIFA announce the three candidates for awards including best player and best manger, see who's being tipped for success.

Cristiano Ronaldo claimed The Best FIFA Men's Player award for a second straight year on Monday night, beating his regular rivals for the top prizes -- Lionel Messi and Neymar -- in the process.

The Real Madrid forward is once again regarded as the world's greatest footballer by the world game's governing body and he is also the favourite claim a fifth Ballon d'Or award, which would draw him level with long-time Barcelona rival Messi.

ESPN FC's club correspondents give their verdict on the final podium places, which were announced at the London Palladium.

REAL MADRID: On Sunday evening Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane killed any lingering doubts about whether Cristiano Ronaldo was 2017's winner of the award and also gave a very convincing reason why he deserves a fifth such FIFA Men's Player of the Year award.

"Ronaldo is the best player of his generation, by a long way," Zidane said in the Bernabeu press room following a 3-0 stroll past Eibar. "He has shown that many times. He makes the difference in the big games."

Zidane clearly must back his player, but it is true that "big games" is why Ronaldo is being feted again ahead of Messi or Neymar. It has not been a vintage calendar year for the 32-year-old, but when it really mattered most he hit the purplest patch of his entire career.

In early 2017, the forward was again whistled by the Bernabeu crowd and called "a shadow of himself." He scored just twice in his first eight Champions League games of 2016-17.

Then the business end of the season came, and Ronaldo was phenomenally decisive. An incredible 10 goals from the quarterfinals onward drove Madrid to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era. Meanwhile his great personal rival Messi's dip in form coincided with Barcelona's limp exit to Juventus, who Madrid would beat in the Cardiff final.

The following months brought more swings and roundabouts for Ronaldo. He threatened to leave Spain due to tax issues which have not yet gone away. The Super Cup featured a superb solo goal, but then a red card and five-game suspension. A personally frustrating 2017-18 so far has him score just one of his first 33 shots at goal in La Liga.

But Zidane is correct. At the very top level, especially for individual awards, the biggest moments count most. And, in 2017, Ronaldo's biggest moments were far bigger than anyone else's. -- Dermot Corrigan

June 3, 2017 - Wins Champions League again
Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to win a third Champions League trophy in four years last season.

BARCELONA: There are not many awards Lionel Messi has failed to collect, but he's never been named The Best FIFA Men's Player since the prize was created just over a year ago following the divorce between FIFA and Ballon d'Or host France Football.

On both occasions, he's been the runner-up to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether Ronaldo has actually been better than him can be (and is) argued all day. The difference has been trophies. The Portugal international has won back-to-back Champions Leagues with his club and the European Championships with his country.

Goals, assists and a ridiculous amount of talent haven't been enough for Messi alone. To win the award next year, then, he may well need to win either the Champions League with Barcelona or the World Cup with Argentina.

Even without them, though, what he does individually all over the pitch means he will be in the running once again regardless of collective success. His start to the new campaign has been scintillating: 15 goals and five assists in 14 matches for Barca and a World Cup qualifying hat-trick for Argentina. -- Sam Marsden

PSG: Ronaldo's Champions League/La Liga double with Real Madrid last season realistically meant PSG's Neymar could only ever finish second or third. Former Barcelona teammate Messi is second but largely because of La Remontada, something the Brazil superstar did more to inspire than the Barca legend on that memorable night at Camp Nou -- meaning he had a case to be runner-up here.

However, second or third to Ronaldo will make no difference to Neymar. The 25-year-old left Barca for PSG this summer to become the best player in the world and now that he has a team of his own at Parc des Princes, he will already be looking to next year for prestigious individual recognition.

With PSG, Neymar is in a better position to shine and challenge Ronaldo and Messi for future titles like the Ballon d'Or but to break up the La Liga pair's dominance, Neymar now needs immediate success in Paris.

If he can lead PSG to the Champions League semifinals or better, help them reclaim the Ligue 1 title from Monaco while keeping hold of all other domestic silverware and then shine at the World Cup in Russia next summer, Neymar will surely rank second or better this time next year. -- Jonathan Johnson

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