by Rob Shepherd.
Luis Figo insists Cristiano Ronaldo should lift FIFA’s Ballon d ‘Or in Zurich today.
Ronaldo is the bookies favourite with German keeper Manuel Neuer behind him and Lionel Messi likely to come third.
There is though a late groundswell of support for World Cup winner Neuer to become the first goalkeeper to win the award since Russian Lev Yashin in 1963.
Neuer was outstanding at the World Cup and has take the role of the modern “sweeper-keeper” to a new level with some astonishing examples of Ronaldo-esque fancy footwork outside the box for Bayern Munich this season.
But Figo, who now heads up a website called Network 90, which is football version of Linekedin where people in all aspects of the football industry can keep in touch across the globe and find work, believes it should still still be Ronaldo.
Former Portuguese, Barcelona and Real Madrid star Figo, 42, accepts that Ronaldo and Portugal disappointed at the World Cup finals in Brazil last summer.
But Figo feels the phenomenal year Ronaldo enjoyed, highlighted by leading Real Madrid to Le Decima in Lisbon (their 10th Champions League triumph) means the award should be his.
Figo who was twice won the Fifa player of year/Ballon d’Or says: “I know Germany won the World Cup and there are those who think Neuer, who is such a great keeper and was a big part of their success, should be recognised while the World Cup wasn’t so good for Cristiano,”
“But for me it has to be Cristiano. He’s had a fantastic year all the way through for Real. You look at all the goals, just incredible…”
That leads to the obvious question; Who does Figo, who played for both Barcelona and then Real Madrid following one of the most bitter and controversial transfer in the history of world football, think is the better player: Ronaldo or Messi?
“It’s the impossible question. They are both so good. It’s like comparing caviar and truffle” Figo smiled.
“But I would say this. Back when I was playing and before, there were usually ten strong contenders every year. I think the overall level of top players was stronger. In recent years it has pretty much been a question of Ronaldo OR Messi.”
Figo’s team of 2014 is: