The status quo has a problem: Is Cristiano Ronaldo the world’s best player?

Soccer has regained a measure of its prestige around the world and there’s no doubt Lionel Messi’s victory at the World Cup final last week made that stand. The win cemented his status as the world’s best player. But he’s in danger of squandering an opportunity to wrest that title back from Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the clear front-runner this season. He just won the award — the world’s greatest individual player — for the seventh year in a row.

In 2014, Ronaldo won the award, beating Messi to win the Ballon d’Or — the announcement was overshadowed by Ronaldo going public with his alleged affair with a transsexual model. In 2016, the Portuguese star won again, taking home a total of 11 trophies (his current team, Real Madrid, won the Champions League, where the pair were pitted in the final against each other, and Juventus made it to the UEFA Champions League final, where they also played in the title match).

Although they both won the Spanish league last season, Messi’s record indicates that he’s been edged out by Ronaldo’s dominance in Europe and his dominance in one major competition. Messi was a leader for Argentina in both the World Cup and the Copa America — a title that Ronaldo also won twice. And he won the Champions League and individual awards for best player in Europe in 2014 and 2016. Ronaldo won a stellar ten trophies in Europe over the same time period, giving him a total of 11 trophies in the 2016-17 season.

The award, formally known as the Fifa Ballon d’Or, was first handed out in 1956 and initially named after the late French great, George Ballon, who invented the award. (Ronaldo holds it over Messi, who won the trophy for three straight years from 2010 to 2012.) Although Ballon d’Or had fallen into disrepute in recent years, this year it’s back in the news. It’s now more appropriate than ever to call Messi the best player in the world. Now it’s up to him to take back the award.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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