It’s not just the winner of the Golden Foot that will be announced on the day UEFA announce the group stage draw for the Champions League, but the winner of the Best Player in Europe Award.
Instituted in 2011, the award replaced the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award and is also meant to take the place of the Ballon D’Or, which was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010.
The award is given to a player regarded to have been the best in his previous season of football. Irrespective of nationality, the award is only given to players who ply their trade in Europe.
This season, in addition to the much-expected presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has made it to the final round of elimination for the coveted prize.
Cristiano Ronaldo: what did he do last season?
Ronaldo went into Real Madrid’s domestic campaign following a moderately successful European Championship, where Portugal were eliminated on penalties in the semi-finals to defending Champions Spain.
With three goals, he finished joint top scorer with five other players.
But with Real Madrid, he continued where he left off last season. He scored an amazing 55 goals in as many games in all competitions, an excellent return that most strikers in the world can only dream of achieving.
Those goals make up 35% or a little more than a third of all of Real Madrid’s goals. In terms of percentage, he lies fifth in the league standings. In terms of goals scored, only Lionel Messi – deployed in the role of the centre forward – had more goals than him last season.
His first season aside, Ronaldo has always been either first or second in the running for the pichichi – the award given to the Liga’s best goalscorer – and it was a similar scenario last season.
But one of the reasons his presence is feared on the pitch is because of his attacking contribution to Real Madrid’s play. He averages a total of around seven shots a game, which over the span of a season meant he had a whopping 264 shots in the league alone, or a staggering 7.4 shots a game.
And it wasn’t all just smoke and bluster from him. The Portugal superstar had a conversion rate of a shade below 40% of all chances presented with. That is a return higher that the number of goals Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie together scored for Manchester United last season.
What did he win?
Although Real Madrid set out to defend their Primera Liga title, Jose Mourinho’s team did not manage to do that.
Rumours of infighting between players (one of who was allegedly Ronaldo) and the manager led to a strained relationship in some areas of the pitch. One such very noticeable area was in between the sticks, when Mourinho decided to freeze club legend and skipper Iker Casillas out of the squad and draft in former Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez instead.
All that meant that despite a late revival against Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu, it would be an all-German final, with Dortmund lining up against bitter rivals Bayern Munich, who famously dismantled Barcelona over two legs.
Ronaldo’s season would end trophyless. His team lost the Copa del Rey final to arch-rivals Atletico Madrid in a game that was played on the hallowed Bernabeu turf in the Spanish capital and would later be infamously known for Mourinho refusing to shake hands with the King of Spain when His Majesty was presenting both sets of players and staff with their medals.
Why Ronaldo should win the award
Ronaldo is one of the most hardworking players in a Real Madrid shirt and gives it his all on the pitch. His will to win is ever present and when the chips are down, it is he (despite the presence of several other world-class players) who the club turn to when they need rescuing.
While some might say that Messi’s presence in the striker’s role for Barcelona had dissuaded others from joining the club, that complaint does not lie with Ronaldo, who operates best when played on the wing.
In addition, he is a multi-faceted footballers who possesses a terrific long-range shot, an excellent free kick, the stamina of a workhorse and the skill and trickery that would definitely make a Brazilian proud.
Could he win the Best Player in Europe Award?
Ronaldo, sadly, has never been a favourite for the award as the traditionalists have always picked Lionel Messi.
The presence of Franck Ribery, who was instrumental in guiding Bayern to their first ever treble (becoming the first ever German club to do so) further diminishes his chances this season.