Cristiano Ronaldo has a new memento to add to his trophy case, but he should clear space for another that’s bound to come his way.
The Portuguese soccer superstar won UEFA’s Best Player in Europe Award on Thursday by vote of leading European soccer journalists. Ronaldo earned 40 of 55 votes, comfortably topping Antoine Griezmann (eight votes) and Gareth Bale (seven) in the tabulation.
Ronaldo accepted the trophy with unexpected humility.
“It’s a great honor,” Ronaldo said, per UEFA.com. “My teammates are the key — they are the key every year. I work hard myself but without their help this would not be possible. Thanks to my teammates from Real Madrid and Portugal. (Winning EURO) was different because I’ve won the Champions League three times now. To win something with Portugal was the highlight of my career.”
Ronaldo led Real Madrid to victory in the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League and followed the club triumph by helping Portugal win the 2016 UEFA European Championship in July. The double trophy haul makes him a worthy candidate, and his personal contribution of 54 goals and 18 assists in 55 games for club and country clinched the honor beyond all doubt.
Ronaldo’s UEFA award is nice, but a bigger and more prestigious prize — the FIFA Ballon d’Or Award, which recognizes the top player in the world — also must come his way.
Either Ronaldo or Lionel Messi has won Ballon d’Or every year since 2009. Messi won it last year. Ronaldo won in 2013 and 2014. The race for the 2016 Ballon d’Or will come down to Messi and Ronaldo once again, as both remain on a higher plane than the rest of the world.
Given Ronaldo’s team success and Messi’s relative, but painful, failure to win the biggest prizes at club and international levels, expect Ronaldo to claim soccer’s most prestigious individual honor in January 2017.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/UEFA.tv