Cristiano Ronaldo is a heavy favorite to claim his second Ballon d’Or crown on Monday and end the dominance of great rival Lionel Messi. The Argentine has been voted the world’s best player for the past four years, but it is Ronaldo who is expected to get the glory in Zurich and add to the crown he won in 2008, before the Ballon d’Or, voted for by journalists, was amalgamated with the FIFA World Player of the Year, decided by coaches and captains of every international team.
There is a new name among the finalists this year, though, and he far from shied away in voicing his credentials for the award in the buildup. In terms of team honors, Franck Ribery stands head and shoulders above his fellow contenders, having claimed a unique treble of Champions League, Germany Cup and Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich last season. Just last month, he and Bayern added the FIFA Club World Cup crown to their haul of honors and Ribery believes those achievements mean he more than merits being voted the world’s best.
“It’s been my best year, it’s been my year,” he told RTL, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “If I don’t win the Ballon d’Or, then I don't see the logic."
“It’s something I dream about, but at the same time I’ve done everything I could on the pitch. Off the pitch, too. I’ve given my all. I don’t know what else you have to do to win the Ballon d’Or. I know that I’m up against two great players, but this year I’ve won everything.”
In contrast, Messi was much more reserved in his appraisal of his prospects of taking the title. Hampered by injury for much of 2013, Messi was unable to rise to his normal, almost superhuman, heights, while Barcelona disappointingly fell short in the Champions League. And the 26-year-old feels it is team honors that matter most.
“It’s a pleasure to be among the three finalists and it makes me very proud,” he explained, according to FIFA.com. “To my mind team awards are the ones that really count, but it’s always nice to be recognized. And if I don’t win the Ballon d’Or, then it won’t be the end of the world either.”
Ronaldo has been less than impressed with his perceived snubs over the years, a fact that spilled over when being the subject of an unfortunate mimicking by FIFA president Sepp Blatter late last year. Indeed, it was in doubt until recently whether he would attend the ceremony at all. But having scored a stunning hat-trick to secure Portugal’s 2014 World Cup qualification in a playoff with Sweden to further cement his credentials to take the gong, the 28-year-old will be in Zurich and he has once again suggested that he would be a deserving winner.
“Do I deserve to win it? Maybe I do, just like I did last year or two years ago. I think I deserve to win the Ballon d’Or every year,” he said.
Also decided at the lavish ceremony will be the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. United States striker Abby Wambach is in contention to retain the award she won for the first time last year. She will go up against legendary Brazilian and five-time winner Marta along with Germany’s European Championship winning goalkeeper Nadine Angerer.
Elsewhere, recently retired manager Jupp Heynckes is expected to take the men’s Coach of the Year prize for his achievements for Bayern Munich, although Sir Alex Ferguson and Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp provide opposition.
In the women’s Coach of the Year, Wolfsburg’s’s Ralf Kellermann goes up against Germany’s Silvia Neid and former U.S. and now Sweden coach Pia Sundhage.
Meanwhile, the FIFA Puskas Award for the goal of the year will be decided between Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar and Nemanja Matic.
Where to watch: Coverage of the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala is scheduled to get underway at 12.30 p.m. ET. Fox Soccer Plus wills screen the event, while a live stream will be available on FIFA.com and Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.