The absence of Barcelona players at the awards gala in Zurich seems to underline the dominance of their great La Liga rivals. Ronaldo, chief among them, is still ‘The Best’ at 31
Madrid-based daily sports paper Marca called it ‘Gala Madrid’ in their edition yesterday after Real Madrid dominated the annual FIFA awards for 2016 in Zurich on Monday night.
Spanish newspaper El Pais — whose correspondent voted for Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Andres Iniesta as his top three — declared: “Zurich was white”, a reference to the colour of the famous Real Madrid shirts and the snow on the ground in the Swiss city.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s domination of the end of year individual awards — he won France Football’s Ballon d’Or in December — is symbolic of Real Madrid’s current superiority over Barcelona.
As the picture used on the front of Marca showed, Madrid were out in force in Zurich with club president Florentino Perez grinning from ear to ear surrounded by Ronaldo, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who had all been awarded their place in the FIFPro team of the year.
There should also have been four Barcelona players taking to the post-ceremony ‘green’ carpet too but Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta were all back in Catalonia in preparation for tonight’s Spanish Cup second leg tie.
It’s hard to know if Ronaldo’s comment, as he lifted his award, that he wished they could have joined him but understood why they could not, was a swipe at their absence or a genuine understanding of their priorities.
Even if it was the latter, it was still him pointing the finger at their current predicament — 2-1 down after their first leg against Athletic Bilbao and therefore not really in a position to take time off for an award ceremony in which they did not win any of the main prizes. Madrid, meanwhile, are 3-0 up in their own Cup clash against Sevilla.
“Ronaldo doesn’t forget Barcelona as he collects his prize,” said Barcelona-based Diario Sport. As if the name check made up for the fact that Leo Messi was voted second with 26.42 per cent of the votes to the 34.54 per cent gained by Ronaldo.
“Some people made some campaigns against me,” said Ronaldo, while adding “football ones and non-football ones.” That was a clear reference to investigations into his tax affairs and also to the column inches, seemingly prematurely, dedicated to his on-the-pitch decline.
He scored 56 goals in 58 appearances for Real Madrid and Portugal in 2016 and won both the biggest collective prize in club football and the biggest on offer last year in international competition. “I never doubted I would win this award,” he said. He also thanked his “whole staff”. That was a new one for acceptance speeches and once again declared 2016 “the best year” of his career.
Who would have thought his best would come aged 31? It is almost enough to suggest his agent Jorge Mendes might have been right when he said of his number one client in 2015: “As impossible as it sounds he will go on playing at the top level until he is 40.”
Real Madrid clearly have similar faith in Ronaldo’s powers of longevity because they have given him a contract until 2021 when he will be 35.
In the presentation he attended to mark the signing of that extended deal, he said it would be his “penultimate” contract and said he wanted to play on past his 40th birthday.
Asked that day if he wanted to outdo Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas who played until he was 39, Ronaldo said: “Forty-one. I think I have got 10 years left.” Accepting his fourth FIFA’s best male player award it was easy to see that he believes every word of that statement.
Ronaldo lambasts media campaign against him
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo claimed he had to overcome media “campaigns” against him to win FIFA’s inaugural ‘The Best’ prize for the world’s best player in 2016. Ronaldo lifted the award at a star-studded ceremony in Zurich on Monday after a glittering year on the pitch saw him lead Madrid to Champions League glory and captain Portugal to their first ever major international triumph at Euro 2016.
However, Ronaldo’s year was blighted by reports from an international consortium of media organisations in December that claimed a huge data leak involving 18mn documents showed the Portuguese hid 150mn euros ($160mn) from image rights in the British Virgin Islands. Ronaldo has strongly denied all claims of wrongdoing.
“There were many doubts, many campaigns against me from inside and outside football,” Ronaldo told Spanish radio station COPE. “They wanted to hit me from all sides and the truth is The Best was The Best and that is me, so I am very happy. They wanted me to feel bad, but as I have said ‘he who owes nothing, fears nothing in life’. As always, I have shut up a few mouths once again.”
The Spanish tax authorities have committed to investigating the allegations against Ronaldo and a series of other Spanish-based sports stars named in the ‘Football Leaks’ investigation.
However, the four-time World Player of the Year insists he is calm and believes justice will be done in his favour. “It bothers me because when you do things well, when you help a lot of people and I am going to mention the award for charity work, which is one of the best awards I have in my museum.
“I have helped so many people and you do so many good things, but people want to hit you to camouflage the bad things that others do. It bothered me and it continues to bother me, but justice is always done in the end and so we are going to wait and see what happens.”
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