Ron­aldo awaits fourth Bal­lon d’Or corona­tion

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Come 8 pm (1900 GMT) to­day, what looks to be a poorly kept secret will of­fi­cially be out-Cris­tiano Ron­aldo will bag his fourth Bal­lon d’Or as the world’s top foot­baller.

The Real Madrid and Por­tu­gal star won the Cham­pi­ons League for the sec­ond time in three sea­sons and third time over­all af­ter one ti­tle with Manch­ester United in 2008.

He then led Por­tu­gal to their first ma­jor ti­tle at Euro 2016 — al­beit he went off early through in­jury in the win over France.

As has been the case for al­most a decade now, the 31-year-old’s main ri­val will be Lionel Messi of Barcelona-but the Ar­gen­tine mae­stro has had by his own ex­alted stan­dards a less than stel­lar year both for club and coun­try with the top prizes elud­ing him on both fronts.

Ron­aldo was spot­ted mid­week in train­ing hav­ing dyed his hair gold in ad­vance and for his club coach, there can only be one man for the crown this year.

“For me there is no de­bate. The Bal­lon will be for him,” Zine­dine Zi­dane said af­ter his tal­is­man’s hat­trick saw off Atletico Madrid last month to un­der­pin their dom­i­na­tion in La Liga. “He showed it last sea­son and he shows it again and again. We ex­pect a lot of him but he stands above every­one.”

De­spite such ef­fu­sive praise, Ron­aldo, rested at the week­end ahead of the Club World Cup in Ja­pan, has had some neg­a­tive head­lines-not least per­tain­ing to ac­cu­sa­tions of tax eva­sion.

Deny­ing any wrong­do­ing, he re­sponded by pub­lish­ing his fi­nan­cial records on Thurs­day-show­ing last year he earned a bumper 227.2 mil­lion eu­ros ($240 mil­lion). “You be­lieve I am wor­ried? He who owes noth­ing, fears noth­ing,” Ron­aldo told broad­caster RTP.

An in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium of me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions has claimed the su­per­star hid 150 mil­lion eu­ros from im­age rights in the British Virgin Is­lands.

This year marks the end of six years of joint awards by founders France Foot­ball and FIFA, which will re­vert to be­stow­ing a “Best” ac­co­lade of its own on Jan­uary 9 to both male and fe­male play­ers.

The Bal­lon d’Or will hence­forth be de­cided by a vote of 173 jour­nal­ists while na­tional team cap­tains and man­agers will no longer have a say. Ar­gentina and Barcelona star Messi landed a record fifth crown last year. A win will lift Ron­aldo to within one award of Messi’s record haul of five. Ron­aldo first won the award in 2008 af­ter Premier League and Cham­pi­ons League tri­umphs with Manch­ester United.

But it was only in 2013 he added his sec­ond and he made it a hat­trick the fol­low­ing year. The first Bal­lon d’Or was won by Stan­ley Matthews, at the time with Black­pool, who beat Al­fredo Di Ste­fano for the in­au­gu­ral ti­tle in 1956. Up to 1994 only Euro­pean play­ers were el­i­gi­ble. The first non-Euro­pean to win it was the fol­low­ing year, AC Mi­lan’s Liberian star Ge­orge Weah.

From 2007 it hon­oured the world’s best player, with FIFA un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter en­ter­ing into a deal with France Foot­ball in 2010 to merge the Bal­lon d’Or with FIFA’s best world player hon­our.

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