Ballon d'Or 2017: Why Ronaldo, not Messi, should claim the trophy
Lionel Messi has the statistical edge, but Cristiano Ronaldo's big-game performances make him the obvious choice for the Ballon d'Or.
Either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo will be awarded the Ballon d'Or on Thursday and, when comparing the two in 2017, the numbers mostly favour the Barcelona superstar.
For his club, Messi has scored more goals than Ronaldo (48 to 37), contributed more assists (14 to eight) and created more big chances (35 to 16).
But stats only count for so much. What really counts is how you perform in the biggest of moments and, in 2017, nobody has come close to touching Real Madrid's Ronaldo in that regard.
Messi did salvage a place at the World Cup for Argentina with a stunning hat-trick as they put Ecuador to the sword, but that rescue mission after a farcical qualifying campaign pales in comparison to what Ronaldo achieved in the month of May.
A hat-trick in the first leg of a Madrid derby Champions League semi-final all but sealed a place in the Cardiff showpiece, and that was followed by a superb run of five goals in Madrid's final three LaLiga games to dethrone Barca and lift the title.
Ronaldo had an encore in him, though, the Portugal superstar helping Madrid stick four past a dogged Juventus in the Champions League final, providing the masterstroke as Los Blancos became the first team to win back-to-back European Cups in the Champions League era.
17 - Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 17 goals in El Clasico and he is only one away from the all-time R Madrid top-scorer: Di Stéfano (18). Ace pic.twitter.com/7ngZmm1hMh— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 14, 2017
Though his LaLiga form has tailed off this season, Ronaldo remains at his brilliant best in the Champions League. He ended last season's campaign by scoring 10 of Madrid's 14 goals from the quarter-finals onwards and already has eight in the competition this season.
Of the two, Messi may have the better all-round game, he is more of a creator whereas Ronaldo largely prefers to stick to the role of predator, and it is also rare at this point in his career to see Ronaldo attempt the mazy dribbles that have become a trademark of the diminutive Argentinian's play - he has completed 228 dribbles to the former Manchester United forward's 45 in club football this year.
Yet, while Messi enjoys statistical supremacy almost across the board, Ronaldo has racked up records that speak to why he deserves to receive football's most prestigious individual honour, which will be presented to the winner at the Eiffel Tower.
Ronaldo surpassed Jimmy Greaves as the all-time top scorer in the top five European leagues on May 17, and by netting against Juve, became the second player after Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano to score in three different Champions League finals.
When the lights are on, it is rare that anybody shines brighter than Ronaldo. And, for that reason, it is he who deserves to receive the Ballon d'Or at the most famous landmark in the City of Light.