Ron­aldo draws even with Messi at soc­cer’s pin­na­cle

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Jerome Pugmire

PARIS — A decade of dom­i­nance as the world’s two best soc­cer play­ers has left Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Lionel Messi level with five Bal­lon d’Or awards each.

De­spite once trail­ing 4-1 to his long­time ri­val, Ron­aldo moved level af­ter win­ning the award again on Thurs­day.

“With Messi the fight con­tin­ues, in a good way,” Ron­aldo said af­ter be­ing pre­sented the tro­phy awarded by France Foot­ball mag­a­zine at a cer­e­mony held at the Eif­fel Tower.

Messi was sec­ond in the vot­ing and Ney­mar, who left Barcelona in the off-sea­son to join Paris Saint-Ger­main for a world record trans­fer fee of €222 mil­lion ($261 mil­lion US), was third.

Over­all, Messi has a very slight edge. The 30-year-old Messi has been run­ner-up to Ron­aldo on each of his wins.

Ron­aldo has been run­ner-up to Messi four times, with the ex­cep­tion be­ing when mid­fielder An­dres Ini­esta — Messi’s bril­liant club team­mate — fin­ished sec­ond in 2010 af­ter scor­ing the win­ner for Spain in the World Cup fi­nal. Ron­aldo did not make the podium that year, with Barcelona and Spain mid­fielder Xavi tak­ing third place.

He has bounced back to win the last two.

Ron­aldo was shown on tele­vi­sion re­ceiv­ing his lat­est award Thurs­day while mak­ing the sign of five with his left hand as held the tro­phy in his right.

“Of course, I feel happy, it’s a big moment in my ca­reer,” Ron­aldo said. “It’s some­thing I hope to win ev­ery year.”

The 32-year-old Por­tu­gal for­ward also took home the Bal­lon d’Or prize in 2013 and ’14, and in ’08 when play­ing for Manch­ester United.

Messi won it from ’09 to ’12 — with Ron­aldo run­ner-up three times dur­ing the pe­riod — and in ’15 ahead of Ron­aldo and Ney­mar.

Ron­aldo claimed it back last year af­ter help­ing Por­tu­gal win the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship and star­ring for Madrid as it won the Cham­pi­ons League.

“Thanks to my Real Madrid team­mates,” Ron­aldo said, adding. “I want to thank the rest of the peo­ple who helped me reach this level.”

Last sea­son he won the Cham­pi­ons League once again — scor­ing twice in a 4-1 rout of Juventus in the fi­nal — and played a key role as Madrid won the Span­ish league ti­tle for the first time since 2012.

His league tally of 25, how­ever, was his low­est since join­ing the club in ’09.

Ron­aldo is the all-time lead­ing scorer in the his­tory of the Cham­pi­ons League with 115 goals.

“If he can score 10 times in train­ing he will, that’s what impresses me,” Real Madrid coach Zine­dine Zi­dane said.

“His am­bi­tion impresses me. I’m proud to be his coach.”

He set an­other com­pe­ti­tion record on Wed­nes­day, scor­ing in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win over Borus­sia Dort­mund on Wed­nes­day to be­come the first player to find the net in all six group-stage matches. It took his tally to nine so far, but in La Liga it has been a very dif­fer­ent story dur­ing this cam­paign.

In Au­gust, he was banned for five games af­ter shov­ing ref­eree Ri­cardo de Bur­gos Ben­goetxea in the back fol­low­ing his red card dur­ing a 3-1 vic­tory over Barcelona in the Span­ish Su­per Cup.

He missed the re­turn leg of the Span­ish Su­per Cup in Madrid plus the first four matches of the Span­ish league sea­son.

Since then, he has man­aged only a mea­gre two in 10 games and Madrid is fourth — al­ready eight points be­hind leader Barcelona af­ter 14 matches. Messi is al­ready well clear with 13 league goals.

Mean­while, vet­eran goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon was fourth on France Foot­ball’s list. The 39-year-old Ital­ian helped Juventus reach the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and win the Ital­ian ti­tle for the sixth straight sea­son.

Croa­tia mid­fielder Luka Mo­dric and Spain de­fender Ser­gio Ramos — both Ron­aldo’s team­mates — were fifth and sixth, re­spec­tively.

Teenage star Kylian Mbappe fin­ished seventh af­ter help­ing Monaco win the French ti­tle and reach the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals.

He joined Ney­mar at PSG this sea­son in a deal worth €180 mil­lion ($212 mil­lion US) — the sec­ond-most ex­pen­sive ever.

Chelsea mid­fielder N’Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Le­wandowski and Tot­ten­ham striker Harry Kane com­pleted the top 10.

The Bal­lon d’Or is voted for by 173 jour­nal­ists world­wide.

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