Cristiano Ronaldo wins third Ballon d’Or title

Cristiano Ronaldo with his third Ballon d'Or trophy. Picture: Getty

Cristiano Ronaldo with his third Ballon d'Or trophy. Picture: Getty

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CRISTIANO Ronaldo won the Fifa Ballon d’Or award for 2014 last night, earning the title of world’s best football player for a third time.

He easily beat four-time winner Lionel Messi and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neur in a vote of national team captains and coaches from Fifa’s 209 member countries, plus selected journalists. Scotland manager Gordon Strachan and captain Scott Brown both voted for Ronaldo. “I want to become one of the greatest players of all time,” Ronaldo said through a translator in his acceptance speech. “Of course, this requires a lot of effort and I hope to get there.”

Lionel Messi with Ronaldo. Picture: Getty

Lionel Messi with Ronaldo. Picture: Getty

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Ronaldo received 37.66 per cent of total points in the ballot, more than twice as many as Messi, who was second on 15.76 per cent. Neuer, who won the World Cup with Germany and the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, received 15.72 per cent. Voters chose their top three preferences from a 23-man candidates list.

Stephanie Roche. Picture: AP

Stephanie Roche. Picture: AP

Ronaldo retained football’s highest individual honour after scoring 61 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal last year. His record tally of 17 in a Champions League season helped his club win an unprecedented tenth European Cup title – and overshadowed a relatively disappointing World Cup campaign. Ronaldo was more composed for this widely expected victory than during his tearful speech a year ago when ending Messi’s four-year reign. He first won the award in 2008 as a Manchester United player.

On hearing his name read out by French great Thierry Henry, Ronaldo closed his eyes, dipped his head and smiled before walking to the stage. “It has been an unforgettable year,” he said after taking a deep breath.

After helping Real win the Club World Cup last month, the 29-year-old star also unveiled a statue of himself in his home island Madeira. In what has become a Ballon d’Or tradition, Portugal captain Ronaldo did not pick Messi in his top three and Argentina captain Messi ignored Ronaldo on his ballot. Neither selected Neuer.

Germany won the other three major individual awards to compensate for Neuer’s defeat. Joachim Low was voted coach of the year for guiding the national team to its first World Cup title since 1990, and first major trophy in 18 years, while Germany midfielder Nadine Kessler beat two former winners – United States forward Abby Wambach and Marta of Brazil – to be named the best women’s player in 2014.

A German man also won the coaching award for women’s football: Ralf Kellermann was rewarded for leading a Wolfsburg team including Kessler to back-to-back Uefa Champions League titles. In their acceptance speeches, Kessler and Kellerman both paid tribute to Wolfsburg player Junior Malanda, who died in a car crash at the weekend.

Women’s football also lost to the men in fan voting for the most beautiful goal, known as the Puskas Award. Colombia’s James Rodriguez was declared the winner from a three-strong shortlist including Republic of Ireland international Stephanie Roche and Dutch striker Robin van Persie.

Roche became an internet sensation following her stunning volley for Peamount United against Wexford Youths Women last year. Over six million fans viewed the goal on YouTube and sparked hopes Roche could become the first woman to claim the coveted award. But despite a concerted campaign Roche was beaten in the public vote by Rodriguez’s stunning effort against Uruguay in the 2014 World Cup.

Unlike her two rivals for the award, Roche’s goal was watched by just 95 spectators and was filmed on a camcorder by Wexford coach John Flood. Following her nomination, Roche left Ireland to join ASPTT Albi in the south of France – though she is soon to leave after struggling with the language barrier.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter made no mention of his upcoming presidential contest in his first public appearance since Fifa vice president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan declared last week as a candidate for the May ballot.

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