Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or after finishing second to Lionel Messi in three of the last four years – reward for a forward who in many eras would have been peerless.
This was Ronaldo's second global award, having previously been 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year after winning the UEFA Champions League with Manchester United FC. Yet there is a sense that five seasons on he is even better than he was aged 23. The statistic that naturally stands out for 2013 is his 69 goals in 59 matches for Real Madrid CF and Portugal, when it seemed his 63 in 2012 would take some matching.
It is not just the quantity, but the quality and timely nature of those goals. That Portugal are in the 2014 FIFA World Cup is in large part thanks to the superstar from Funchal. In 2013 Ronaldo equalled Pauleta's record as the all-time top goalscorer for the Portuguese national side with 47 goals in 109 appearances, and it is telling that he emerged ahead of UEFA EURO 2004, his country have never failed to qualify for a major tournament and reached four semi-finals.
It was of course Ronaldo that stamped Portugal's passport to Brazil with four goals in the play-off against Sweden, proving in his duel with Zlatan Ibrahimović that he is second to none when it comes to finding the back of the net.
But it is not just for his country that he has broken records. Last April, Ronaldo became the first player in the history of Real Madrid to score 30 or more goals in three consecutive seasons. In order to understand the magnitude of this feat, it should be noted that strikers such as Raúl González, Ronaldo Nazario, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Hugo Sánchez and Alfredo Di Stéfano were unable to match that. His club tally is 230 in just 223 matches.
The UEFA Champions League, though, is perhaps the stage for which Ronaldo reserves his finest performances. His nine goals in the 2013/14 group stage set a new competition record for that stage. Over 2013 he has scored six hat-tricks for Madrid, taking his club tally to 23, having only registered one treble at United.
There is no sign of Ronaldo letting up in 2014, as he attempts to spearhead the charge for Madrid's tenth European title before travelling to Brazil. On 5 January against RC Celta de Vigo he scored his 400th career goals (five for Sporting Clube de Portugal, 118 for United, 230 at Madrid, 47 with Portugal). There is no doubt that 2013 was Ronaldo's year, and the FIFA Ballon d'Or electorate clearly agrees. Congratulations Ronaldo.
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