Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is highly favoured to win the rebranded Best FIFA Football Award ahead of Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann when they are presented at Zurich on Monday.
Ronaldo, who won the European Championship with Portugal and the Uefa Champions League with Real Madrid last year, has already won this year’s Uefa best player and the Ballon d’Or. This will also be the first time when fans have been allowed to vote for their favourite player, something that will account for 25 per cent of the votes — the rest being from the national captain and coaches and selected journalists.
While the age-old debate of who among Ronaldo or Messi should finally be handed over the award has already cropped up, one can’t help but wonder if the award ceremonies are turning out to be a two-horse race, given Ronaldo and Messi’s fan base far outnumber that of Neymar, Gareth Bale or Antoine Griezmann or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Griezmann has been unlucky to miss out on a Champions League trophy — twice losing to Real Madrid in three years. Diego Simeone’s team were agonisingly close to lifting the trophy but went down 3-5 in tie-breakers in Milan last year.
In Euro 2016 as well, Eder’s winner in extra-time drew curtains for France and Griezmann had to be satisfied only with the runners-up medal. But, these are individual awards and in that parameter, the Atletico striker had scored six goals — the highest in the tournament.
But will that or his heroics for Atletico Madrid be enough to win the trophy? With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi around, that’s highly unlikely. And it’s not just the fandom that’s got to do with the duo dominating the awards. Both Ronaldo and Messi’s have staggering numbers to back their claims.
While Cristiano can proudly claim to be a complete champion having also won the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan, Messi won the La Liga and the Spanish Cup with Barcelona and took his national side to the finals of Copa America. He already has 10 goals and two assists to his name in the Champions League in five matches and is way ahead of Ronaldo who has just two goals and four assists in six games.
Both Ronaldo (31) and Messi (29) are around 30 but neither have shown any signs of slowing down when it comes to sending the ball behind the net. They have been prolific upfront and continue to lead their respective teams in each competitions. Their presence has often overshadowed the brilliance of others in the team like Neymar or Bale but the fact remains, they have been head and shoulders above others in this era.