Since its inception in 1991, and later rebranding as FIFA Ballon d'Or, the FIFA World Player of the Year has been won by the star of World Cup-winning teams in the year the quadrennial events were staged.In the first 16 years, all the winners in the World Cup year were the stars of the champion side - Brazil's Romario in 1994, France's Zinedine Zidane in 1998, Brazil's Ronaldo in 2002 and Italy's Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
But the trend has been broken ever since the duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi started dominating the beautiful game with their breath-taking individual performances. Ronaldo was the first to land the coveted award when as a Manchester United player he was named 2008's World Player of the Year for leading his English club to the treble of Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.
Since 2010, the award has been called 'FIFA Ballon d'Or' after the FIFA World Player of the Year award (male) and France Football's Ballon d'Or were merged. And since 2008, the Ronaldo-Messi duo has monopolised the top FIFA award, with the Argentinian star winning it a record five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2015) and the Portuguese winning it thrice (2008, 2013 & 2014). More importantly, even in the World Cup year too they overshadowed the world champions' main star to keep the strong hold on the award intact.
The new trend was followed up by Ronaldo in 2014 when the Real Madrid star pipped the world champions Germany's mercurial goal-keeper Manuel Neuer, who finished a distant third in the race behind Messi. Messi was even awarded, though controversially, the Golden Ball in the 2014 World Cup, in which he took Argentina to the final in Brazil.
The eight-year dominance by the Ronaldo-Messi duo established the fact that the award is conferred for individual performances and the team's result matter very less. During the last eight years, Messi's national team Argentina won almost nothing whereas Ronaldo's Portugal were never in contention for top titles. But their clubs (Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively) have had a terrific runs, especially Messi's Barca.
Barcelona have won the Spanish league title five times during the period, along with three Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups. While Real Madrid won the domestic league, Champions League and Club World Cup once each in the same period.
On the individual front, since joining the Spanish giants in 2009, Ronaldo has became a real goal-machine scoring more goals than the match played and also breaking a plethora of club records. His records included - Real's all-time top goalscorer; fastest to score 200 La Liga goals; the most La Liga hat-tricks; the most goals in the UEFA Champions League among others.
The arrival of Ronaldo in Spain provided another reason for an already brilliant Messi to raise the bar higher with each passing year. A child prodigy, Messi has been with Barcelona since 2001 and made his senior debut in 2004. Since then, he has broken almost all the club records and many European records. Messi is the only footballer to win the FIFA Ballon d'Or five times, and European Golden Shoes three times and he also holds many scoring records including most goals in La Liga and most goals in a La Liga season.
So, in all sense Ronaldo and Messi are way ahead of their fellow trade mates and it's nearly impossible to say one is better than other. And someone has rightly observed that instead of comparing the two living legends, we football fans should feel privileged to live in an era dominated and mesmerised by the dynamic duo.
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