The Real Madrid forward claimed the prestigious prize for the fourth time on Monday, an unprecedented achievement for a footballer from the “old continent”
Another Ballon d’Or for Cristiano Ronaldo. When the Portuguese finished second to Lionel Messi in the FIFA gala for the Golden Ball in January, many speculated that he may never make the final three again. But instead, by winning the individual award for a fourth time, he has achieved what no European player has done before him.
This year, the Ballon d’Or cut ties with FIFA and was handed out by France Football, just as it was when Ronaldo first won it in 2008 as a Manchester United player. Cristiano has now won two of each version and four in total, a number second only to Messi, a five-time winnner of the prestigious prize.
It comes in a year in which the Real Madrid forward won the Champions League for the third time in his career with his club and also Euro 2016 with Portugal. This fourth Ballon d’Or sees him surpass three-time winners Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten while moving further clear of Franz Beckenbauer, Kevin Keegan and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who all claimed the award twice.
So can Ronaldo now be considered the greatest European player of all time?
Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or three times and was runner-up once. A hugely influential forward whose genius helped Ajax to three consecutive European Cups, he also featured prominently in the Netherlands side that reached the World Cup final in 1974 and scored an impressive 33 goals in just 48 appearances for his national team. Even though the Dutchman, who passed away this year, did not hit the same spectacular heights after his fantastic first season with Barcelona, he hit 369 goals in 661 games in his club career and is considered by many to be the greatest European player ever.
As well as winning the Ballon d’Or three times, Platini finished second twice. The former France great led his national side to two World Cup semi-finals in 1982 and 1986, as well as the Euro ’84 trophy, hitting 41 goals in his 72 games for Les Bleus. He also won the European Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup among a number of titles with Juventus, scoring 312 career goals at club level.