Cristiano Ronaldo is heavily favored to end Lionel Messi’s four-year reign as the world’s best player at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala today.
Ronaldo’s tally of 69 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal seems likely to earn the striker his second FIFA award after finishing runner-up three times to Messi.
Franck Ribery is the third candidate, but the Bayern Munich and France winger needs to score a major upset to put the FIFA accolade next to the Best Player in Europe award he collected from UEFA in August last year.
A Ronaldo victory is expected because of FIFA’s announcement after the Brazil World Cup playoffs in November last year that it would extend voting by two weeks.
That brough his inspiring performance and hat-trick for Portugal in Stockholm during a 4-2 aggregate win that eliminated Zlatan Ibrahimvic and Sweden from the World Cup into the calculations.
“I did my job as I have been doing all season,” Ronaldo said after the match. “Every year, I show what I’m about. I’ve scored 40 or 50 goals a season and that’s not enough for everyone.”
Messi, who got 45 goals for Barcelona and Argentina, was unable to further his case after being sidelined by a third injury last year.
FIFA also allowed the voting college — national team captains and coaches, plus one journalist from each of the 209 member countries of world soccer’s governing body — to change preferences and submit new ballot papers. Voters selected their top three choices from a 23-man shortlist made by FIFA and France Football magazine.
The change prompted speculation that the association is seeking to counter speculation in Spain and Portugal that FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his organization are biased toward Messi and Barca.
Ronaldo’s former boss at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson, is nominated for the coaching award after going into retirement with another Premier League title.
Jupp Heynckes, who also retired last year, is favored to win after leading Bayern to a treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German cup titles.