Paris - Cristiano Ronaldo called it "a dream come true
again" as he won his fourth Ballon d'Or on Monday to get one over his
nemesis Lionel Messi for the title of best player in the world.
It was the perfect ending to another fantastic year for the
Real Madrid star, who won the Champions League for the second time in three
seasons and then led Portugal to their first major title at Euro 2016 - albeit
he went off early injured and in tears in the surprise victory over France.
As has been the case for almost a decade now, the
31-year-old's main rival was Messi - but the Barcelona and Argentine maestro
had to relinquish the crown after a less-than-stellar year for club and country
by his lofty standards.
Ronaldo is now one Ballon d'Or behind Messi, who was second
this time with French striker Antoine Griezmann third.
Never one to play down his achievements, Ronaldo was spotted
midweek in training having dyed his hair gold in anticipation and several media
outlets published a photo earlier on Monday appearing to confirm he was the
winner, before organisers France Football magazine made the official announcement.
"For me it's a great honour to receive my fourth Ballon
d'Or. The emotion is like the first one - it's a dream come true again,"
Ronaldo, who is at the Club World Cup in Japan, told L'Equipe TV.
"I never thought in my mind to win four times the Ballon
d'Or, I'm so pleased and so happy.
"I have to thank all my team-mates, the national team,
Real Madrid, all the people, the players who helped me to win this individual
"I want to enjoy this moment because it's not easy to
Fourth was Luis Suarez and fifth his fellow Barcelona
attacker Neymar, with Ronaldo's Welsh team-mate Gareth Bale sixth.
Ronaldo was the firm favourite to win, but the prestigious
prize comes at a time when the prolific forward has generated negative headlines
in the past week over accusations of tax evasion.
Denying any wrongdoing, he responded by publishing his
financial records last week, showing last year he earned a whopping $240 million.
"You believe I am worried? He who owes nothing, fears
nothing," Ronaldo told broadcaster RTP at the time.
Ronaldo, the highest-paid sportsman in the world, first won
the Ballon d'Or in 2008 after Premier League and Champions League triumphs with
But it was only in 2013 that he added his second - Messi had
hogged it before then - and Ronaldo made it a hat-trick the following year.
United were quick to offer their congratulations on Twitter,
calling a fourth Ballon d'Or "incredible".
Real said Ronaldo, who last month signed a bumper new
five-year contract, had enjoyed "a sensational year".
The first Ballon d'Or was won by Stanley Matthews, at the
time with Blackpool, who beat Alfredo Di Stefano for the inaugural title in
The Ballon d'Or is decided by a vote of 173 journalists.