During the last two decades, two men have been dominating the world of football. Those men are Messi, who has won plenty of his own Ballon d’Ors, and Cristiano Ronaldo, his rival for more than 15 years.
The Portuguese international now plays in the Saudi League and is currently the second most awarded player in the history of the Ballon d’Or and being able to win as many as he had in an era that included Messi, one of the greatest player ever, makes it even more astonishing.
Let’s look back at these years when Cristiano was the best player in the world and how he achieved it.
2008 – The golden boy
In 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo finished second on the podium for the Ballon d’Or, just behind Kaká. However, this was the first time he reached the top three which was an iconic moment for the Manchester United winger.
In 2008, Manchester United had a terrific season, which was largely thanks to the Portuguese star. The team led by Sir Alex Ferguson won the Premier League and the Champions League, with CR7 scoring the first goal of the final before missing his attempt during the Penalty shoot-out against Chelsea.
However, with 31 goals to his name, he won the Golden Boot, making him the main favorite for the Ballon d’Or award that he won with 446 points, 185 more than Messi.
2013 – The controversial one
In 2013, neither Messi or Ronaldo won the Champions League, and it was far from obvious that one of them would take home another trophy. Messi had won four in a row, but his year was below the standards he set himself in 2012.
A true contender was Franck Ribéry. The French player from Bayern Munich had an outstanding season and had won it all. Based on collective performances solely, there was no doubt that he was the main favorite to win the race.
Unfortunately for Franck, individual performances came in the way – and in a controversial way. FIFA decided to postpone the date by two weeks when all voters had to send their ballots. During this period of time, Portugal had a very important game against Sweden to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hattrick, allowing Portugal to play in another World Cup, and it was the perfect storm that made him win the Ballon d’Or by a very thin margin, since he got 27.99% of the votes. Messi (2nd) got 24.72% and Ribéry (3rd) got 23.36%.
2014 – SIUUU
As always during World Cup years, one of the candidates to win the Ballon d’Or is the main figure of the Nation winning the most beautiful trophy in football.
Arguably, Neuer was the name that stood out the most from the German national team, mainly. Obviously, Neuer had the two generational phenomenons with him on the podium, but in which order?
Well, surprisingly enough, Cristiano Ronaldo won by a fairly important margin since he got 37.66% of the votes when Messi & Neuer ended with 15.76% and 15.72% respectively.
Winning the Champions League and scoring 61 goals, 17 of them scored in the European competition, allowed him to go home with the award for the second year in a row, and to celebrate it with his iconic “siuu” celebration live on stage.
2016 – The national hero
In their history, Portugal's best major competition was the Euro 2004 where – at home – the national team lost in the final to Greece and triggered the tears from a teenager called… Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, 12 years later, Portugal won the Euro 2016 against France that was playing…at home. This final also had tears from Cristiano Ronaldo as he was subbed off due to injury. Yet they soon became tears of joy as he able to lift the trophy for his beloved country as Portugal upset the home nation.
Winner of both the Champions League and the European Championship, there was little to no doubt that CR7 was going to bring the 2016 Ballon d’Or. In the end, he won by a huge margin since Messi had less than half the votes Cristiano received.
2017 – The 5th and final one
Winning the Champions League and La Liga for the second year in a row meant it was highly likely that a Real Madrid player would win the award in 2017. Obviously, the star of that team was again Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was the 5th time that CR7 won the award, matching the number of Ballon d’Or won by Leo Messi at that time, strengthening their epic rivalry 10 years after they both appeared on the podium for the first time.
Cristiano Ronaldo left European football in 2023, surprising many to go and play in the Saudi Pro League, which is proving to be the new favorite destination for European players. Only another historic victory during an international competition would see Cristiano Ronaldo as a contender for another Ballon d’Or, but winning five of them is already an incredible achievement, only beaten by a kid from Rosario.