Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring a goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish first division match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, December 1, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Paul Hanna (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) )
In just five days the 2012 Ballon d'Or winner will be announced. The three contestants are Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi and all have good reasons. What are Cristiano Ronaldo's?
The Portuguese superstar did not end his strong year on a high note - he scored just five goals in his final 12 matches of the year. Meanwhile, his rival Lionel Messi was racking up goals and breaking records. Ronaldo seems to have been conscious of his poor finish and acknowledged that he might lose the award. He stated in an interview in mid December that "If I win, perfect. If I don't, never mind, life goes on. But obviously I'd love to win. I'm not going to lie or be hypocritical."
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Ronaldo got the year off to a tremendous start by finishing the 2011-12 season with 46 goals and 12 assists; just four off from Lionel Messi. He scored the game winner in the Clasico win last spring that secured the title for Real Madrid and ended Barcelona's run of three straight years atop the Spanish league.
After that, he went to the Euro Cup and quieted the critics who claimed he was not a big game player. He scored two major goals against the Netherlands in a 2-1 win that secured Portugal's passage to the quarter finals. In that match, he scored the game winner against the Czech Republic.
The first six months of his year proved he was a big game team player, but the second half proved the opposite.
He continued to rack up big goals in big moments, but during the second half of the year his goals total is down. In 17 Spanish league games, he only scored 14 goals. If he maintains the same pace, he would only end up with 30 goals by the end of the season; a massive drop in production from last season. His assists total is also down as he only has three so far; he had 12 last season. His UEFA Champions league production has been solid with six goals in six matches (he had 10 in 10 last year), but Madrid needs him to play his best in their tilt with Manchester United in February.
In the end, Ronaldo put together a solid 63 goals in all competitions in 2012, but that number is dwarfed by Messi's tremendous feat of 91 goals in a calendar year. He does have the support of many people, but if he is going to win the award this year, the Spanish League title will be the determining factor. The fact that he had some issues with Real Madrid early in the 2012-13 season, could hurt his perception as a team player.
Why should Ronaldo win? Despite a quiet second half, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to their first major title in three years. His 46 goals were a major reason for Madrid's title run. HIs performance at the Euro 2012 also projected his image as a big game player. Messi scored a lot of goals in 2012, but few were as meaningful as Ronaldo's brace against the Netherlands that pushed Portugal into the quarter finals. Real Madrid also won the Spanish Super Cup over Barcelona, and Ronaldo scored two goals in those matches. Messi meanwhile did not pick up a single major trophy in 2012.