Cristiano Ron­aldo wins fourth Bal­lon d’Or tro­phy

Ron­aldo wins fourth Bal­lon d’Or to cap ‘ best year’ of stel­lar ca­reer

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ASSOCIATED PRESS

After win­ning a Euro­pean cham­pi­onship for Por­tu­gal and an­other Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ron­aldo ended 2016 with some­thing just for him­self — his fourth world player of the year award.

The 31-year-old on Mon­day won his third Bal­lon d’Or award, which this year was handed out by France Foot­ball mag­a­zine sep­a­rately from FIFA.

Ron­aldo also took home the prize in 2013 and 2014, and won the FIFA award in 2008 while play­ing for Manch­ester United.

The Por­tuguese for­ward is also in con­tention for FIFA’s top in­di­vid­ual honor this year, along with Lionel Messi and An­toine Griez­mann, who fin­ished sec­ond and third in the Bal­lon d’Or vot­ing.

“This was likely the best year of my ca­reer, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively,” Ron­aldo said in a pre-recorded video. “It was un­for­get­table.”

Only Ron­aldo and Messi have been voted the best in the world since 2007, when Kaka won the prize. Barcelona star Messi won a record fifth award last year.

“For me it’s a great honor to re­ceive my fourth golden ball,” Ron­aldo said.

“I never thought in my mind to win it four times, so I’m so pleased, I’m so happy. I have to thank all my team­mates, the na­tional team, Real Madrid, all the peo­ple, all the play­ers who helped me win this in­di­vid­ual award.”

Five big mo­ments for Por­tu­gal’s ‘Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic’

Nou bal­ance Wolfs­burg wounded

Messi was run­ner-up for the fifth time in his ca­reer, while Griez­mann fin­ished third after a re­mark­able year with France and Atletico Madrid.

Luis Suarez was fourth and Barcelona team­mate Ney­mar fifth in the re­sults an­nounced by the Paris-based mag­a­zine.

Ron­aldo team­mate Gareth Bale, who led Wales to the Euro 2016 semi­fi­nals, was sixth. Le­ices­ter City’s Riyad Mahrez fin­ished sev­enth and his team­mate Jamie Vardy eighth.

Madrid de­fender Pepe and Ju­ven­tus goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon tied for ninth.

Ron­aldo topped a list of 30 play­ers picked by in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists se­lected by France Foot­ball, which for the pre­vi­ous six years awarded the cov­eted prize in part­ner­ship with FIFA.

Soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body, which re­lies on the votes of coaches, team cap­tains, jour­nal­ists and — for the first time — an on­line fan poll, will hand out its own award in Jan­uary.

“I’m happy be­cause I worked very hard to win this,” Ron­aldo added.

“It’s not easy to stay at a high level year after year. You can count on one hand the play­ers who can do it, there are very few who can, and I do it year after year. That makes me very proud.”

Last month, Ron­aldo’s Madrid con­tract was ex­tended un­til 2021, ty­ing him to Los Blan­cos un­til he is 36.

It has been an up-and­down sea­son for him so far, but he could not have fin­ished Spot-on in Mi­lan Hun­gary hero­ics the pre­vi­ous one stronger.

Ron­aldo net­ted the de­ci­sive penalty in a shootout against Atletico Madrid in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal as the Span­ish gi­ant claimed Europe’s top club ti­tle for the sec­ond time in three sea­sons.

He also won the tour­na­ment with Manch­ester United in 2008.

Ron­aldo scored a record 11 times in the group stage of the com­pe­ti­tion last sea­son and fin­ished with a to­tal of 16, one short of the record he set in 2014.

He is the Cham­pi­ons League’s all-time top scorer with 95 goals, and is two away Derby de­light from be­com­ing the first player to score 100 goals in Euro­pean club com­pe­ti­tions.

With Por­tu­gal, Ron­aldo achieved one of his great­est feats, help­ing the na­tion win its first Euro­pean ti­tle after sev­eral close calls, in­clud­ing a run­ner-up fin­ish as host in 2004 when it lost to Greece in the fi­nal.

“To win a ti­tle for the first time with Por­tu­gal was some­thing that was miss­ing from my re­sume,” Ron­aldo said.

“It was one of the most im­por­tant mo­ments of my life.”

Ron­aldo scored the opener in Por­tu­gal’s 2-0 semi­fi­nal vic- tory against Wales and then watched from the bench as his team­mates de­feated France 1-0 in ex­tra time.

He played only 25 min­utes of the fi­nal at Stade de France in July be­fore be­ing sub­sti­tuted be­cause of a left-knee in­jury.

The for­mer Sport­ing Lis­bon player also won the Euro­pean Su­per Cup with Madrid, as well as UEFA’s award as the best player in Europe last term.

Ron­aldo is cur­rently in Ja­pan to play in FIFA’s Club World Cup, a com­pe­ti­tion he has won twice, once each with United and Real. Ron­aldo fact­file

Real Madrid is cur­rently rid­ing a club-record 35-game un­beaten run, but back in April it was old foe Barcelona which seemed un­beat­able as it car­ried a 39-game streak with­out de­feat into El Cla­sico.

Yet, de­spite Madrid go­ing a goal and then a man down, Ron­aldo’s late win­ner si­lenced Camp Nou and sig­naled a swing in the bal­ance of power for the rest of 2016.

Real’s last loss came in a shock­ing 2-0 re­v­erse to Wolfs­burg in the first leg of their Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal — just four days after the victo- ry at Barcelona.

How­ever, amid a typ­i­cally fer­vent at­mos­phere at San­ti­ago Bern­abeu, Ron­aldo in­spired a Madrid fight­back with a hat-trick to earn a 3-0 tri­umph and progress to the semi­fi­nals.

Ron­aldo didn’t man­age to score in reg­u­la­tion time in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, but proved de­ci­sive as Real broke Atletico Madrid hearts for the sec­ond time in three years.

Ron­aldo scored the win­ning penalty as Real won an 11th Euro­pean Cup 5-3 in a shootout after the teams couldn’t be sep­a­rated in a 1-1 draw after 120 min­utes in Mi­lan. This was likely the best year of my ca­reer, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively. It was un­for­get­table. I never thought in my mind to win it four times.” Cristiano Ron­aldo Ron­aldo de­scribed win­ning Euro 2016 with Por­tu­gal — its first ma­jor tour­na­ment win — as the “hap­pi­est mo­ment of my life”.

How­ever, Por­tu­gal’s un­ex­pected run to glory in France could have been very dif­fer­ent had he not res­cued it from an em­bar­rass­ing early exit at the group stage.

After draws against Ice­land and Aus­tria, Por­tu­gal trailed Hun­gary three times in its fi­nal group game only to be bailed out.

Ron­aldo teed up Nani for the first equal­izer be­fore scor­ing two of his three goals in the tour­na­ment to en­sure Por­tu­gal sneaked through as one of the best third­place sides. While Ron­aldo’s achieve­ment in win­ning both the Cham­pi­ons League and Euro 2016 was the rea­son he won the award, the 31-year-old also si­lenced the crit­ics who sug­gested he was past his best at the start of the sea­son with a hat-trick to again van­quish Atletico last month.

In the last ever La Liga clash be­tween Madrid’s two great ri­vals at Vi­cente Calderon sta­dium – which will be de­mol­ished as Atletico move to a new home – Ron­aldo be­came the all-time lead­ing scorer in Madrid der­bies to al­most cer­tainly ban­ish Atletico from the ti­tle race.

Name: Cristiano Ron­aldo dos San­tos Aveiro Age: 31 Date of birth: Feb 5, 1985 Place of birth: Fun­chal, Madeira, Por­tu­gal Po­si­tion: For­ward Clubs: Sport­ing Lis­bon (2002-03), Manch­ester United (2003-09), Real Madrid (since 2009) Na­tional team: Por­tu­gal In­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances: 136 In­ter­na­tional goals: 68 In­ter­na­tional de­but: Aug 20, 2003, Por­tu­gal 1 Kaza­khstan 0 Hon­ors Club Cham­pi­ons League (3): 2008, 2014, 2016

Club World Cup (2): 2008, 2014

English Cham­pi­onships (3): 2007, 2008, 2009 English FA Cup (1): 2004 English League Cups (2): 2006, 2009

Com­mu­nity Shields (2): 2007, 2008

Span­ish Cham­pi­onship (1): 2012

Span­ish Cup (2): 2011, 2014

Span­ish Su­per­cup (1): 2012

Por­tuguese Su­per­cup (1): 2002 In­ter­na­tional Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships: win­ner (2016) In­di­vid­ual Hon­ors Bal­lon d’Or (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016)

FIFA World Player of the Year (2008)

Four times top Euro­pean scorer (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015)

Three times top scorer in the Span­ish league: (2011: 41 goals; 2014: 31 goals; 2015: 48 goals)

Top scorer in the English Premier­ship with 31 goals (2008)

Five times top scorer in the Cham­pi­ons League (2008 with eight goals, 2013 with 12, 2014 with 17, 2015 with 10, 2015-16 with 16)

Record of goals in one sea­son of the Cham­pi­ons League (2013-14 with 17)

AN­GEL MARTINEZ / L’EQUIPE / AFP

Cristiano Ron­aldo poses with the Bal­lon d’Or in the Tro­phy Room at San­ti­ago Bern­abeu sta­dium in Madrid. Win­ning the award as global soc­cer’s best player for the fourth time capped a ter­rific year for the Real Madrid star.

Soc­cer

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