What’s the story?
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has made a name for himself for making headlines every now and then for his not so subtle jibes at arch-rivals Real Madrid. However, for once the Spanish international has not gone down his usual path and has admitted what is considered a norm. Who will win the Ballon d’Or is a question that has captured the imagination of the entire footballing fraternity for the past decade and once again – it is a raging topic of debate across pubs and boardrooms.
Pique, who one could have bet would have picked Lionel Messi for the top honour on any given day, has decided to buck the trend and has opted for Messi’s biggest rival – Cristiano Ronaldo – to claim the prestigious award. Speaking on Qatari television show One (h/t Goal), Pique said: "Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Champions League and the League. So he is a favourite. Lionel Messi is still considered the best player in history, though, and then there are other options."
However, even when he named Cristiano Ronaldo as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or, he didn’t refrain from showering praise on Lionel Messi – hailing him as the greatest footballer of all time.
In case you didn’t know…
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or race for close to a decade now. The duo have shared the last 9 Ballon d’Or awards between them, with Messi slightly ahead of his rival having claimed 5 of those, to Ronaldo’s 4.
The heart of the matter
Cristiano Ronaldo is the overwhelming favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year, having played a starring role in Real Madrid’s double winning campaign. The Portuguese sensation helped the Santiago Bernabeu become the first team in the Champions League era to win the prestigious title consecutively, while also guiding them to their first La Liga title since 2011/12.
Messi had no ordinary campaign on a personal level having plundered goals for fun, scoring 54 goals in 52 games across all competitions. However, despite the heroics of the Argentine, the Camp Nou outfit were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the quarter-finals, while they finished second behind Real Madrid in La Liga.
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It is almost certain that Cristiano Ronaldo will win the Ballon d’Or this year, which will help him draw level with Lionel Messi on 5. Now, with the duo both in their thirties, it won’t be long when the race will not be about who wins the prestigious award in a given year but rather who finishes with more of them at the end of the career. Messi, being almost 2 years younger to Ronaldo, holds a slight advantage but as we have seen with Ronaldo – his hunger can never be satiated.