When Cristiano Ronaldo picked up an injury this weekend, people wondered what to do with the masks. The Santiago Bernabeu was scheduled to full of with Ronaldo faces for the Merengues visit from Galatasaray – pictures on sticks that fans would hold to their faces, showing their support for a player trying to claim world soccer’s most prestigious award. If the Ballon d’Or candidate wasn’t healthy enough to play, how would Madridistas show their support?
Turns out Ronaldo’s fans doubled down. Not only were the stands filled with supporters holding the Portuguese’s visage, but pre-match tifo at one end of the stadium honored the team’s injured star, making it clear who the Bernabeu felt should win this year’s Ballon d’Or.
With Lionel Messi battling injuries at various times in 2013, the battle for the award is wide open. Ronaldo’s main competition may not be the Argentine but Franck Ribéry, crucial to Bayern Munich’s treble-winning success last club season.
The raw numbers, however, make it difficult to argue Ribéry’s done enough to make up the gap. While the France international’s improved play without the ball is a huge factor in his candidacy, the Bayern winger scored 20 goals in 50 appearances for club and country in 2013.
Ronaldo? 67 goals in 56 appearances.
So the question voters have (hopefully) asked themselves: Are the unquantifiable aspects Ribéry brings to the game worth enough to transcend that 47-goal gap?
At least, let’s hope that’s the question going through voters’ minds. It would be a shame to see Ribéry win an individual award based on the quality of his teammates’ play.