As of early May 2018, the answer is one: yes, Cristiano Ronaldo will win the 2018 Ballon d’Or allocated by France Football ahead of Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Brazil’s Neymar and the rest.
However, it goes without saying that “it’s too soon to confirm anything” due to the fact that we are in a FIFA World Cup year and that Ronaldo is yet to lift a single major title in this calendar year.
Why Ronaldo currently heads Messi and Salah in the 2018 Ballon d’Or race
We’ve heard fervent Lionel Messi fans arguing in favor of dribbles and pre-assists and while we acknowledge La Pulga’s influence on Barcelona’s road to Copa del Rey and La Liga glory, these two tournaments remain local championships. In other words, not as worthy as Europe’s most prestigious cup: the UEFA Champions League.
Messi is an undisputed local champion (still, Ronaldo is not far off in the standings despite playing 8 games less):
Thanks to his title-winning hat-trick, Messi now leads the European Golden Boot race ⚽🔥
— LiveSoccerTV.com (@LiveSoccerTV) April 30, 2018
In the Champions League, Argentina’s captain generally had an adventure to forget. Absent from the UCL’s Top 7 highest assist makers and goalscorers, Messi’s impotence was exposed in Barcelona’s unexpected upset at the hands of AS Roma in the quarter-finals. As strange as it may sound, the reality is that the number 10 playmaker has failed to net a single goal in each of his last 11 UEFA Champions League quarter-final matches over the past six seasons. Not decisive. On top of that, the Spanish Primera Division expert has lifted only one UCL trophy in the last seven years.
In short, Leo has yet again failed his European homework.
On the contrary, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the man guiding Real Madrid to accomplish their main target – that of welcoming “the 13th”. Los Blancos had a relatively tough group but wins against Borussia Dortmund, fueled by Ronaldo’s brace in Germany, and vital points against APOEL and Tottenham Hotspur were enough to see them through to the second round.
The 33-year-old forward has been an absolute beast, since then. Tuning his mindset and body for “Champions League mode”, Cristiano has left defenders, goalkeepers, pundits, and fans out of breath.
Summing up his stunning evergreen influence was his legendary overhead kick past Gianluigi Buffon in Turin – that same stadium where Lionel Messi and his Barcelona counterpart were hammered 3-0 at the same stage of the competition, last year. But count on Ronaldo, the big game player, to create a different scenario. The Portuguese earned a historic standing ovation from the home crowd for that.
Ronaldo has raised the bar so high in Europe that his inability to find the net against Bayern Munich in the semis has been singled out by trolls as a “drought” although he remains the all-time Champions League semis topscorer with 13 goals in 19 games. Ironic. Especially when you let the following fact sink in: Ronaldo has literally scored six times more goals than Lionel Messi in the crucial stages of the UCL (quarterfinals, semis, finals).
Bow down to the king!
As for Mohamed Salah, he’s had an incredible season. He is the favorite to finally break the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly. With his popularity, he even managed to scoop the UEFA Player of the Week award with 57% of the fans’ votes ahead of CR7… on the week when the latter netted that outrageous bicycle kick goal against Juventus!
Hats off to the Egyptian who was recently crowned the Premier League Player of the Year. One thing to note, however, is that the Ballon d’Or is voted for by a select group of expert journalists and not by fans through a poll.
What should Cristiano Ronaldo do to secure his sixth Ballon d’Or?
Complacency should not set in among Ronaldo and his fans. This is the moment where there’s everything to play for.
Mission number 1 – El Clasico:
To put a perfect display against Barcelona in El Clasico, on Sunday, May 6. Although there is nothing to play for as the Catalans are already league champions, restoring some pride is always an important factor for a club as massive as Real Madrid and a player as decorated as Cristiano.
Make Camp Nou shut up again…
Mission number 2 – A por la 13:
Mohamed Salah is no tiny opponent and neither is the team he will be leading, Liverpool FC, in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League final in Kiev on May 26. Cristiano Ronaldo enters that showdown on top of the UCL topscorers chart with his 15 goals ahead of the Reds’ goal poacher who counts 10 vital strikes.
The best way to downplay the movement claiming Mohamed Salah is at Ronaldo’s level would be for the Portuguese veteran to do what he did to Neymar in the Real Madrid 3-1 PSG Last 16 encounter, or again, what he did to Antoine Griezmann in the 2014 and 2016 UCL finals. Scoring and lifting a third consecutive Champions League title in front of a dejected Salah is the scenario that Cristiano needs to reinforce the gap between his mastery and the Egyptian’s lack of history with European glory.
Mission number 3 – a respectable run in Russia 2018:
The World Cup. It’s this year’s most important event. Cristiano Ronaldo will come under immense scrutiny. Fans and haters alike will closely monitor his individual performances as well as his influence as a leader upon the rest of the squad.
A repeat of the disastrous campaign in Brazil and Ronaldo would totally damage his chances of retaining his Ballon d’Or. Even a UEFA Super Cup medal – should Real Madrid come out victorious in Kiev – will not be enough for CR7 to redeem himself supposing he endures a miserable adventure in Russia.
Firstly, qualifying from the group is a must. The task at hand is extremely daunting, however, looking at Portugal’s opponents: 2010 World Cup winners Spain will want to disgrace the reigning European champions on Matchday 1 of the competition. Herve Renard’s Morocco will try to channel Africa’s support into an upset of the Iberians. And Iran have a coach named Carlos Queiroz; this man will want to make the best use of the secrets he knows about his own nation, Portugal.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo would earn much respect and “2018 Ballon d’Or points” if he succeeds in inspiring the Selecção to qualify for the knockout stages. Still, a Last 16 finish will not be good enough to boost his case for the Ballon d’Or. Perhaps, a quarter-finals finish would be the minimum requirement. After all, Leo was crowned Ballon d’Or 2010 winner ahead of World Cup champion Andres Iniesta although the former exited South Africa goalless at the Last 8 stage.
Nevertheless, CR7 will have to find the formula to detach himself from all the pressure that will fall upon his shoulders in Russia. Other players from Germany, Brazil and the likes will be on the lookout to “pull a Cannavaro” against the current Ballon d’Or favorite trio (if Argentina put in a poor show and Egypt follow the disappointing trend of African teams on the world stage).
When is the 2018 Ballon d’Or award (time and date)?
The 53rd edition of France Football’s golden prize should take place at the end of the calendar year 2018. The exact time and date are yet to be revealed. The process should begin with a release of the nominees in Fall before the announcement of the eventual winner a few months later.
We will keep you updated on Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of winning the 2018 Ballon d’Or. And once again, this prize should not be mistaken for the Best FIFA Men’s Player award. FIFA have no affiliation with the Ballon d’Or anymore, since 2016. The France Football Ballon d’Or is voted for by journalists only whereas the Best FIFA Men’s Player award involves the votes of national team coaches and captains, and fans as well.