Cristiano Ronaldo has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Ballon d’Or, taking out the most prestigious individual prize in world football for the fourth time.
Respected publication France Football named the 31-year-old forward as its player of the year on Monday, Ronaldo claiming the accolade ahead of arch-rival Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
Ronaldo enjoyed a glittering 2015-16 season with club and country, lifting the Champions League with Real Madrid and finally ending his wait for international honours, as Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016.
The former Sporting CP player won his first Ballon d’Or at Manchester United in 2008, before collecting the prize again at Madrid in 2013 and 2014.
He still trails Messi, though, the Argentina star having won the Ballon d’Or five times, including last year.
Having ended its six-year partnership with FIFA, which ran from 2009 to 2015, France Football’s 2016 Ballon d’Or was voted for by a jury of 173 journalists around the world.
“It is hard to explain how I feel, but there is an immense feeling of joy inside me,” he told L’Equipe TV.
“I have worked really hard to get here. I am happy with those who believed in me, my family, my team-mates, and those who have worked with me year after year to help me improve. It is not easy. You can count those who are capable of playing at the highest level year after year on the fingers of one hand. I am among them. There are very few.”
Ronaldo struggled for his best form early in 2015-16, but finished the campaign strongly after Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez as head coach in January.
Demonstrating his unerring knack for finding himself involved in the crucial moments, Ronaldo struck the winning penalty in Madrid’s 5-3 Champions League final shootout triumph over Atletico Madrid at San Siro in May.
It was something of a different story at the European Championship, though. Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure early in the group stage before coming to life with two goals in the 3-3 draw against Hungary.
He helped to guide his team into the final against France in Paris, but was forced to depart the decider after just 25 minutes, having sustained a knee injury.
Ronaldo then cut an animated figure on the sidelines as the unlikely figure of Eder struck in extra-time time to down the hosts and favourites 1-0 at the Stade de France.