Cristiano Ronaldo has no doubt that he is “the best player in history,” the Real Madrid star told France Football upon winning his fifth Ballon d’Or award on Thursday.
His latest win took him level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the most all-time honours in football’s most prestigious individual award, but speaking to the magazine that organises the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo insisted he was a cut above.
“No other player has won as many individual trophies as me. And I’m not only talking here about the Ballon d’Or,” Ronaldo said. “That says something, no?
“It’s not only the work that I’m doing in the gym, like people think. It’s a combination of many things. Legends like Floyd Mayweather or LeBron James, they didn’t get to this level of perfection by chance. It must be many factors coming together. To be at the top and stay there, you must always have more talent than others.
“You know, I respect everyone’s preferences. But I don’t see anyone better than me. I always thought that.
“No other footballer does things that I am not capable of doing myself. But I see that I do things that others can’t do. There’s no player more complete than me. I play well with two feet, I’m fast, powerful, good with headers, I score goals, I deliver assists.
“People have the right to prefer Neymar or Messi. But I insist: There is no one more complete than me. …
“You will go and say that I have a big head, but when you’re at the top, it’s normal that you’re criticised. … I am the best player in history, in both good and bad times.”
Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or while he was at Manchester United in 2008, but then saw Messi win in each of the next four years before he won it again.
Though Ronaldo accepted this year’s award without his fellow finalists present, he previously endured the frustration of watching Messi take the honour when France Football fused the award with the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010, which led to some uncomfortable moments.
“I won a Ballon d’Or before Messi and then he overtook me winning four in a row,” he said. “I can’t hide the fact I was sad and angry. I went to the awards ceremony and never won. I was even demotivated. I didn’t want to go there any more. I wasn’t interested in being there for the photo.
“And then, little by little, thanks to the support of those around me, I said to myself that everything has a start and an end. And that in football, it’s the end that counts, not the start.
“I was patient, and I’ve won other Ballons d’Or. Today is the fifth, and that pushes me more to keep fighting, without thinking of my age.”
Messi last triumphed in 2015 with Ronaldo picking it up in each of the past two years, and the Portuguese star told L’Equipe that he doubted he would catch his rival.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to catch Messi, because after I won my first, he won four, and I thought it would be difficult to equal him,” Ronaldo said. “But football gives you the opportunity to keep working and winning, and I have won, and I’m experiencing a great period.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman