The Portuguese was named along with Lionel Messi and the Brazil forward in the final three to win the prestigious prize, but Luis Suarez can consider himself unlucky to miss out.
“Lionel Messi and I are here in Zurich every year,” said Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2015 Ballon d’Or ceremony. And the world’s two most famous footballers will be back in Switzerland again to dispute the individual award next January.
This time, however, the Portuguese is very fortunate to be named among the final three contenders.
The shortlist of three was revealed on Monday and Ronaldo was included alongside heavy favourite Messi and his team-mate Neymar, the Brazilian saying on the eve of the announcement that he believed Barcelona should complete a clean sweep after last season’s treble triumph.
“I think I do deserve to be [among the finalists] for what I’m doing,” he said. “I would be happy if the trident [Messi, Suarez, Neymar] were all in the three. Thanks to the history we are making and because of what we have conquered, all three of us should be there.”
Indeed they should. The Ballon d’Or is awarded due to form in a specific calendar year and while Barca took time to come good under Luis Enrique in the final few months of 2014, they have dominated football in 2015, winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Three titles that saw Barca become the first team to win a treble twice (having also achieved it in 2008-09) and it was largely thanks to those three players: Messi, Suarez and Neymar. The trident has hit 125 goals for Barca in 2015 and between them were the main reason Luis Enrique’s side won it all at the end of last season, while their fine form has continued into the current campaign and sees them dominating in Spain and in Europe as the year draws to a close.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, have hit 108 goals in total this year and after a fantastic 2014 when Los Blancos claimed four trophies (the most they have ever managed in a calendar year), 2015 has been desperately disappointing.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side ended 2014 with 22 straight victories, but fell into decline after Christmas and after losing 4-0 at Atletico in La Liga in early February, it all went wrong for Real and Ronaldo. The Portuguese struggled in the derby disaster and came under fire for celebrating his birthday party that same night.
After winning the Ballon d’Or back in January for a second successive year, the forward’s form has dipped dramatically and he was unable to prevent Madrid’s decline in all three competitions in 2015 which led to the departure of Ancelotti in the summer.
And this term, his influence has been restricted largely to goals. Outside the box, his contribution has been negligent – especially in the big games.
“Ronaldo is lacking motivation,” former Spain striker Julio Salinas told Goal prior to Madrid’s heavy Clasico defeat earlier this month. “He is not happy and I think it shows.”
Although he has become Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer this season, Cristiano has hit his goals against Espanyol, Malmo, Shakhtar Donetsk, Levante, Celta Vigo, Las Palmas and Eibar. And although those 16 goals have of course been useful, he has been unable to net versus the bigger teams – Barca, Atletico, Paris Saint-Germain or Sevilla.
All the while, Neymar and Suarez have kept converting week in week out – even in the two-month absence of Messi through injury – and the two South American forwards were both on target in the 4-0 Clasico win at the Bernabeu on November 21.
That match highlighted how Barca are currently dominating in Spain and the 6-1 win over Roma days later confirmed the Catalans’ magic moment in Europe, with many believing only Bayern Munich have any chance of stopping them in the Champions League this term.
Credit of course goes to Luis Enrique, to Andres Iniesta, to Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Claudio Bravo and many more, but Messi, Neymar and Suarez are the undoubted stars of the team, the match-winners – and they should have stood together on the podium next January.
“They are all phenomenal,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said last week. “They way they co-exist is great to watch. It’s admirable.”