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Ballon d'Or 2014: Cristiano Ronaldo set to conquer second straight golden ball

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo could not get the recognition he wanted/deserved as a player. Leo Messi was playing well, and so were FC Barcelona. But now, both Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo himself have finally become world's greatest. Los Blancos won the 2013-2014 Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with the Portuguese as their undisputed star.

Ronaldo is clearly the favorite to win this Ballon D'Or. The bookies will only pay 1/6 if his name is announced, with Manuel Neuer (15/4) and Messi (14 in most of them) well behind. The truth is that there are no real competitors that could and should get the award away from Ronaldo. Neuer is a world champions with Germany and one of the world's greatest goalkeepers, but his side got destroyed by Ronaldo's in the Champions League and he arguably wasn't Germany's most important player in the summer. On the other hand, Leo Messi underperformed throughout most of 2014 and he was one of the reasons why FC Barcelona failed to win a single trophy. The Argentinian is still very good at times, maybe even the best, but his consistency has dropped off significantly in comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Still, it should be noted that this award is somewhat close to a popularity contest. Wesley Sneijder wasn't even one of the final nominees after Inter Milan won the treble and Netherlands reached the 2010 World Cup Final thanks to his performances. There could be some surprises, although it seems clear that Ronaldo will win it.

If he manages to do so, this would be his third Ballon D'Or, one short of Leo Messi. Who would've thought years ago? Ronaldo winning his second consecutive award for the world's greatest player would be the icing on the cake for one of the best years in Real Madrid's history. And hold on, because Cristiano Ronaldo is having a record-breaking season yet again...

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