His acrobatic brilliance dragged the tie away from the Italian champions and broke fans’ hearts, but they still bowed down to his greatness. Real Madrid went on to win 3-0 and they now have one foot firmly in the Champions League semi-finals, while most of our green listed bookmakers have made them second favourites to win the tournament. Punters have responded by backing the Portuguese superstar to win another Ballon d’Or crown this year and the odds have dropped significantly.
Ronaldo and his great rival, Lionel Messi of Barcelona, have monopolised the award for the past decade, winning five apiece, but the last two have gone to the Real Madrid star. Barcelona are runaway leaders in La Liga and Messi is the league’s top scorer, so many expected him to wrestle back the crown this year. However, Ronaldo has been utterly sensational since the beginning of 2018 and he has made up a huge amount of distance on Messi in the top scorer stakes. Recently he was 15 goals behind the Argentinean, but now the deficit has been cut to just four. Ronaldo also has a better goal per minutes ratio, although he has made fewer assists.
But in the Champions League – often the defining platform for Ballon d’Or glory – Ronaldo has really come into his own. His brace against Juventus took him to 14 goals in Europe this season, one every 58 minutes, leaving him six clear of his nearest rival, Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder. Messi has only managed six. In all competitions, Ronaldo has 39 goals in 36 games this season, while Messi has 36 goals in 45 games. Of course, goals are not the be all and end all – Messi has more assists, and enjoys many more touches of the ball, while Ronaldo is fast turning into a poacher supreme – but the cold, hard statistics are helping in arguments about who should win individual glory.
Messi remains the favourite to win the honour, priced at 5/4 with Unibet and 6/4 with Marathon Bet. But Ronaldo has now leapfrogged Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne to become the second favourite, priced at 17/10 with Green Listed Bookmakers. That comes after punters backed him in their droves to win the award. Neymar is currently injured, and Real Madrid ripped his PSG team apart in the Champions League. De Bruyne’s stock has also fallen somewhat after an ineffectual display in the Champions League as his Man City side were crushed by Liverpool. The Reds Mo Salah is now making a compelling case to beat him to Premiership Player of the Year, and right now it is hard to place De Bruyne in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo.
Once again it could come down to a straight fight between these outrageously talented superstars. The caveat is that this is a World Cup year, and if Neymar inspires Brazil to glory he might force his way into the picture. Brazil are favourites for the World Cup, while Argentina and Portugal are given little chance of winning it. Argentina have a stronger squad than Portugal, and should go further, but there are no guarantees. There are several outrageously talented European teams – holders Germany, France, Spain and De Bruyne’s Belgium – so it is likely that one of them will win it. That could leave the Champions League as the deciding platform for Ballon d’Or glory.
Barcelona crushed Roma and they will surge into the semis, alongside Real, and they will probably be joined by Bayern and Liverpool. It is unlikely to see Salah in the mix for the Ballon d’Or just yet, while Bayern are more about collective brilliance, so that leaves Messi and Ronaldo. The Argentinean had been on fire in the first half of the season, but his form has tailed off a little, and there is more value on Ronaldo. Real
Madrid have won the Champions League for the last two seasons in a row, and they have won it in three of the last four years, so would you bet against them doing it again this time around? Odds of 5/2 at Betfair certainly look attractive on a team with stunning momentum, a magnificent goal scorer and the best midfield in the world.