Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence from the 2023 Ballon d’Or shortlist marks a significant shift in his illustrious career. Let’s dive into why Europe may be moving on from one of the game’s greatest.
A 20-Year Legacy Interrupted
For the first time in two decades, Cristiano Ronaldo is absent from the Ballon d’Or race. His 19 consecutive nominations and five wins have now been replaced by silence. Ronaldo’s determination to continue at the highest level remains unshaken, but is he living in the past?
Ronaldo’s Legacy: Cristiano Ronaldo has been a dominant force in football for over two decades. His incredible goal-scoring prowess, remarkable athleticism, and consistent success have cemented his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats. From his early days at Sporting Lisbon to stardom at Manchester United, his record-breaking stint at Real Madrid, a return to Manchester United, and most recently, a move to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr, Ronaldo has remained a constant presence on the global football stage.
Falling Short of the Ballon d’Or
Ronaldo’s exclusion from the 2023 Ballon d’Or list is justified. While he’s been prolific at Al-Nassr, the Saudi Pro League pales in comparison to Europe’s top divisions. His exit from Manchester United, marred by on-field struggles and off-field controversies, led him to a Middle Eastern adventure.
Ronaldo’s Middle Eastern Sojourn: The latter part of Ronaldo’s career has been marked by unexpected twists. His departure from Manchester United was fraught with challenges, including disagreements with then-manager Erik ten Hag. The Portugal captain’s on-field performance also raised questions, as he struggled to find his footing and form. His move to Al-Nassr was seen as a surprising choice, given his previous stints in top European leagues. However, Ronaldo quickly made an impact, scoring goals and showcasing his enduring talent.
The Decline and Messi’s Shine
Ronaldo’s decline stands in stark contrast to Lionel Messi’s continued brilliance. While Messi secured a World Cup and Ligue 1 title, Ronaldo struggled to make an impact in the 2022 World Cup. The rivalry that once defined football has fizzled out, with Messi now reigning supreme.
The Messi-Ronaldo Rivalry: For the best part of 15 years, Ronaldo and Messi were the leading figures in European football. Their rivalry was a spectacle, as they pushed each other to new heights and rewrote the record books. Their combined trophy haul and goal-scoring feats were unmatched. However, while Messi continued to deliver on the biggest stages, Ronaldo’s influence waned. The gulf between the two icons became increasingly evident, even after Messi’s move to MLS outfit Inter Miami.
Ronaldo’s World Cup Struggles: The 2022 World Cup was a disappointing chapter in Ronaldo’s career. He was relegated to the substitutes’ bench, and Portugal’s attack looked more potent without him. The team’s exit at the hands of Morocco in the quarter-finals highlighted Ronaldo’s inability to carry his team in crucial moments. Even when he was on the pitch, he appeared out of sync and outpaced.
Meeting Expectations, Not Raising the Bar
Although Ronaldo has netted frequently at Al-Nassr, his standards must be higher. He is surrounded by a formidable team, leaving no room for underperformance. Despite his hot streak, he’s merely meeting expectations, not exceeding them.
Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr Stint: Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr brought with it a flurry of goals and attention. He celebrated his 850th career goal during his latest Pro League outing, a remarkable achievement by any measure. However, the context is crucial. The Saudi Pro League, while competitive, does not compare to the top European leagues in terms of quality and competitiveness. Ronaldo’s prolific scoring is impressive but expected given the level of competition.
A High-Quality Supporting Cast: Al-Nassr’s squad received a significant boost with the addition of talented players like Sadio Mane, Otavio, Marcelo Brozovic, Aymeric Laporte, Alex Telles, and Seko Fofana. With such a high-quality supporting cast, Ronaldo’s role is to shine consistently. While he is delivering notable performances, he must aim higher to truly stand out.
Euro 2024 and the Stagnation
Ronaldo’s captaincy for Portugal may persist, but it’s hindering the emergence of promising talents. Youngsters like Ramos, Leao, and Felix should lead the charge, but Ronaldo’s influence prevails. Portugal’s progress is stifled by a fading superstar.
Ronaldo’s National Team Role: Despite his struggles in recent competitions, Ronaldo continues to lead Portugal’s national team. Under the management of Roberto Martinez, he retains the captain’s armband. However, this decision comes with consequences. Young talents in Portugal’s ranks, such as Ramos, Leao, and Felix, deserve more opportunities to showcase their abilities. Ronaldo’s dominance in the squad limits their chances to shine.
The Prolonged Farewell
Ronaldo’s immediate future includes national team duties and club commitments. However, his achievements at the club level may no longer matter to European fans. The final chapters of his career may be more about personal pride than collective appreciation.
The Unending Journey: Ronaldo’s career has been
an epic saga of triumphs, records, and indomitable spirit. Despite his remarkable journey, the twilight years of his career are marked by reluctance to acknowledge the inevitable: that time spares no one, not even football’s greatest icons.
A Personal Quest: Ronaldo’s quest for more records, more goals, and more glory persists. He remains determined to prove his longevity, even at the age of 38-and-a-half. While his dedication is admirable, it raises questions about his willingness to adapt and let younger talents take center stage.
The Struggle for Relevance: The paradox of Ronaldo’s career lies in his unparalleled success and the growing sense of irrelevance in the current football landscape. While he still commands respect and admiration for his past achievements, he struggles to remain a dominant force in the present.
The Long Goodbye
As Ronaldo continues to chase personal milestones, his career enters a prolonged farewell. While some may still hold out hope for a glorious final act, many have already bid their farewells. His absence from the Ballon d’Or shortlist serves as a poignant reminder that time marches on, even for legends.
Legacy and Farewell: Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy is secure, and his contributions to football will forever be celebrated. Yet, as the curtains gradually close on his illustrious career, the footballing world has begun to look elsewhere for its new heroes. The Ballon d’Or omission signals a changing of the guard, one that Ronaldo, despite his determination, cannot halt.
The End of an Era: Ronaldo’s journey has been a remarkable era in football history, but all eras must eventually conclude. The world watches as he navigates his final seasons, achieving personal milestones while leaving a trail of memories. As the applause fades, the echoes of Ronaldo’s greatness will forever resonate in the annals of the beautiful game.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s omission from the 2023 Ballon d’Or list speaks volumes about the evolving football landscape. While his legacy is assured, the present belongs to new stars. As Ronaldo continues his quest for more records and more goals, he stands at the crossroads of an extraordinary career and the inevitability of change. The footballing world watches the long goodbye of one of its greatest heroes, knowing that even legends must yield to time.