Cristiano Ronaldo added another well-deserved feather to his cap, winning his second UEFA Player of the Year award. It was a hard decision to make for the European governing body and after many deliberations and media speculations they gave it to the most worthy candidate.
Ronaldo won the Champions League with Real Madrid and also played a key part in Portugal winning this year’s EURO. He is a consistent performer and that is an admirable asset in today’s football.
Gareth Bale, Ronaldo’s Real team-mate, came a close second, while city rival Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann came third. Like Ronaldo, Bale played a major part in Real winning the Champions League and the Wales international is blooming into a fine footballer, performing admirably for his country in the EURO too.
Griezmann had a great season as well for Atletico and was on fire for France at the quadrennial championship. He was definitely one of the standout performers at the EURO and deserves credit for being an all-round goal-scorer.
The twin title — Champions League and EURO — tilted the balance in the Portuguese’s favour as it is a hard proposition to bag two important team titles in the same year. It’s difficult to distinguish between the quality of the two competitions and a player perhaps will equate both as equally great achievements. But, the EUROs come along every four years and it’s a different feeling when your own nation gets behind you. The feeling of pride on achieving something for your country and countrymen can never be replicated.
Hence the 2016 triumph, firmly puts Ronaldo in the footsteps of legends like Pele, Maradona and Cruyff.
Ronaldo had a stop-start EURO, having his share of off days, which is fairly normal after a long, gruelling season. But when it mattered he scored some wonder goals and at the end of the day goals win you matches. I do feel that he didn’t live up to his full potential at some games throughout the tournament, especially during the group stage. But he bounced back and did manage to win the tournament.
His passion for his country was evident during the final and I can completely understand where his aggression was coming from. He’s very competitive by nature and that makes him so good. Robbed of the chance to play the major part of the final against France after an unfortunate injury, he was still the driving force of the team, egging them on from the sidelines.
The win perhaps has also handed him a slight edge over Lionel Messi, who again failed in a final for Argentina at the Copa Centenario. Messi, though, still is a supremely talented individual, forever looking for the rub of the green in national colours.
Bale, who garnered a lot of votes to come second, also had a marvellous EURO, leading Wales to the semifinals. His game has improved since his move to Real. The Welsh FA too has played its part in improving his game by providing an encouraging atmosphere in the national camp.
As a player, he has got stronger on his runs and is never selfish on the pitch, always willing to pass at appropriate moments, growing into a perfect team player. He can score unbelievable goals and has also sharpened his skills with the dead ball. This year’s EURO showcased some of the best goals he has scored.
At Real, he has worked out a wonderful partnership with Ronaldo and with age on his side my countryman is perfectly poised to challenge Messi and Ronaldo as the best player in the globe.
Griezmann, young and hungry, is one of my favourite goal-scorers. He’s young and time is on his side to develop into something better and in Diego Simeone at Atletico he has the right man to bring the best out of him.
The European award is often a precursor to the more prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or and I expect the usual suspects — Messi, Ronaldo, Bale — to be nominated. But it will be terribly unfair if Luis Surez misses out on the shortlist again.