Cristiano Ronaldo deserves Ballon d'Or for 2016 success - Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba says that "real leader" Cristiano Ronaldo should win the 2016 Ballon d'Or for his work in driving Real Madrid and Portugal to glory.
Three-time former Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo is now the big favourite to reclaim the trophy from Barcelona rival Lionel Messi, after he netted the winning penalty in the shootout as Madrid won this year's Champions League final, and then lifted the Euro 2016 trophy with Portugal.
The 31-year-old's chances have been helped by Messi's unhappy Copa America Centenario this summer, where he announced his intention to quit international football after losing a third major international final in as many years.
Other challengers, such as Blaugrana duo Luis Suarez and Neymar, and Atletico Madrid and France attacker Antoine Griezmann, are now realistically just battling for a place on the podium.
On a visit to Los Blancos' preseason training camp in Canada, former Chelsea striker Drogba -- who now plays at Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact -- told Real Madrid TV that the injury which forced Ronaldo off early in the Euro 2016 final against France should not deflect attention from his "great performances" for club and country.
"I played against Cristiano in the 2008 Champions League final that Manchester United won," Drogba said. "He's a real leader and he deserves to win the Ballon d'Or for his great performances both for Real Madrid and Portugal. Although he wasn't on the pitch at the final whistle, he was still the main reason why they got that far."
Drogba did not get to meet his old adversary during the visit to Madrid's training camp, as Ronaldo is still on holidays in Europe and not due to return to work with his club until August.
Marca has claimed that he might not return to action until early September, missing the European Supercup and first two La Liga fixtures, as he strives to recover completely from the knee injury suffered against France after a tackle from Dimitri Payet early in the match at the Stade de France.
This free time has included a dinner on Ibiza with his agent Jorge Mendes and Valencia owner Peter Lim.
In June 2015, Singapore businessman Lim bought the superstar's image rights.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan