The front pages of Spain’s newspapers were awash with images of a crying Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday after the Portuguese striker picked up his second Ballon d’Or in Zurich, Switzerland, on Monday.
Despite not winning a trophy on a collective level last year, Ronaldo was rewarded with soccer’s highest individual accolade for his incredible performances last year.
The Real Madrid forward averaged more than a goal a game and also guided his country to this year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“Cristiano moves football with his emotional reaction to winning the Ballon d’Or,” said the front page of Madrid sports daily Marca, while fellow Madrid paper AS led with: “The best won.”
The vote was tighter than many expected, with the winner of the past four years, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, finishing just more than 2 percent behind Ronaldo’s 1,365 points on 1,205. Bayern Munich’s treble-winning playmaker Franck Ribery was a further 1 percentage point back in third with 1,127.
Voting was done by national team captains and coaches, plus selected journalists from each FIFA member country. After being outshone by Messi in previous years, the general consensus was that Ronaldo was a deserving winner.
In Spanish broadsheet El Pais, Jose Samano said the 28-year-old’s tears were the culmination of a year in which his public persona has been turned around.
“Little by little, Cristiano has left behind being an obstinate show-off to the point where he has reached his current peak, in which he is seen as a star footballer and, that which is even more commendable, an ever more rounded person,” he wrote.
Unsurprisingly, the mood was somewhat different in the Catalan press as Messi’s injury-plagued previous year meant he was beaten for the first time in five years.
“This time the best didn’t win,” read the front page of Barcelona daily Sport, while El Mundo Deportivo concentrated on looking forward to what will be a huge year for Ronaldo and Messi’s legacies.
On Monday, after hearing his name called by Brazil great Pele in Zurich — after a dramatic pause and smile — Ronaldo closed his eyes, grinned, dipped his head, then turned to kissed girlfriend Irina Shayk before walking to the stage.
He could not hide how much winning meant to him, saying: “There are no words to describe this moment,” as he cried while his three-year-old son, also named Cristiano, stood at his feet.
“People who know me know how many people helped me,” he said in Portuguese. “If I have forgotten anyone, I do apologize because I am deeply moved.”
Pele greeted Ronaldo with a hug minutes after he had also cried on stage when collecting an honorary Ballon d’Or for his career.
The next day, Pele told France Football that Ronaldo must continue to maintain his exceptional high standards in order to be classed among the sport’s legends.
“To me the last true great was [France playmaker Zinedine] Zidane. He stayed at the same very high level for at least 10 years,” the soccer legend said.
Ronaldo is on the right path and reminded the three-time World Cup winner of former Portugal striker Eusebio, the top scorer at the 1966 World Cup, who died earlier this month at the age of 71.
“Today, Messi and Ronaldo are above the rest. Ronaldo reminds me a bit of Eusebio, he is well-bred. He has the elegance and the creativity of the great players,” Pele said.