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Cristiano Ronaldo’s sour grapes

Cristiano Ronaldo’s sour grapes


This week, Cristiano Ronaldo finished outside the top three in the Ballon d’Or for the first time in ten years. The Portuguese superstar isn’t happy about it at all.


Hi, I’m Andrew and this is the Playmaker. 

One story, every day to make sense of the world of football.

Today, the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi takes a fresh twist.


Lionel Messi picked up his seventh Ballon d’Or – or Golden Ball – on Monday evening.

If you’ve heard Playmaker before, we won’t go over old ground on the merits of whether he deserved it, or whether individual awards have value – just go back and listen to episode 79. 

But Messi picking up his seventh award was important in one regard.

It meant he moved further ahead of his great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s got seven Ballons d’Or – Ronaldo, five.

And behind the scenes, tensions have been simmering. 

The award is created and run by the magazine France Football, and last Friday their editor Pascal Ferre told the New York Times: “Ronaldo has only one ambition, and that is to retire with more Ballons d’Or than Messi, and I know that because he has told me.” 

So as Messi collected a seventh Ballon d’Or, his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo finished outside the top three for the first time in ten years….

Sky Sports

When the award was announced on Monday, Team Ronaldo clicked into gear.

Ronaldo issued a lengthy statement on Instagram.

“Pascal Ferre lied,” he said. “He used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication he works for…

“It’s unacceptable that the person responsible for awarding such a prestigious prize could lie in this way, in absolute disrespect for someone who has always respected France Football and the Ballon d’Or.”

Now while the conversation between Ferre and the New York Times could be misinterpreted – insomuch that it may not be Cristiano Ronaldo’s only ambition to retire with more Ballons d’Or than Messi (which is semantics, I know), the Portuguese superstar has never hidden his desire to rack up as many awards as possible. 

Take this, from an interview he did with Piers Morgan last year: 

“Which is the one you’d most like to end up as number one, which record?”

“Golden balls, for example, the most golden balls. I will love it. And I think I deserve it. As you mentioned before, Messi’s a fantastic guy, fantastic player in the history of football, but I think I have to have six, or seven, or eight, above him. I think.”


Admitting on primetime television that you want to have more Ballons d’Or than your arch-rival isn’t exactly hiding your ambition. 

So is Cristiano Ronaldo changing his approach, now he’s entering the twilight of his career? 

His statement on Instagram this week went on to say: “The biggest ambition of my career is to win national and international titles for the clubs I represent and for the national team…

“The biggest ambition of my career is to leave my name written in golden letters in the history of world football.”

Pascal Ferre hasn’t responded to Ronaldo’s statement, meanwhile Messi himself is seemingly unfazed by what’s going on. 

He even, quite sheepishly, said on receiving the award that France Football should award an additional Ballon d’Or to Robert Lewandowski, who was the hot favourite last year before it was cancelled due to Covid. 

Meanwhile, Ronaldo has continued to vent. On a fan account dedicated to him, Ronaldo commented the single word “Facts” on an Instagram post that described Messi’s award as ‘Theft’ and ‘Shame’. 

So why the sour grapes?

Perhaps it comes down to the symbiotic nature of their relationship.  They are rivals – and are undoubtedly the greatest of the modern game. The effect they have on each other is one of the things that drives them.  

Cristiano Ronaldo has said he wants to be known as the greatest of all time.  Maybe the title is slipping from his grasp. 

Today’s episode was written by Andrew Butler, and produced by Studio Klong.