Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during extra-time of the Club World Cup football final match between Kashima Antlers of Japan and Real Madrid of Spain at Yokohama International stadium in Yokohama on December 18, 2016.
Behrouz MEHRI / AFP
Following his success in Ballon d’Or, the Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is set to add another garland — the Best FIFA Men’s Player — on Monday in Zurich.
After Champions League and Euro 2016 success for club and country last year, Ronaldo is the overwhelming favourite for yet another accolade for his bulging trophy cabinet.
It could well be a double celebration for Real, with their manager Zinedine Zidane hoping to land the coaches title having led the merengues to European Cup glory — 14 years after doing so as a player.
Last year, FIFA ended its six-year collaboration with magazine France Football for the Ballon d’Or award and is now to unveil its own brand new “Best” distinction.
In accordance with the pizzazz such a star-studded occasion demands, US actress Eva Longoria will host the ceremony aided by German broadcast host Marco Schreyl.
With his Ballon d’Or safely tucked away after his third Champions League title, thanks in major part to his 16 goals in 12 games, as well as Portugal’s Euro 2016 success – the country’s first major crown — CR7 is seen as a shoe-in for the men’s new FIFA title.
About the only downside for the former Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon star was the fact he was off the pitch when Portugal sealed their win over France, having been stretchered off with injury in the first half in tears.
He watched Eder’s extra-time winner from the bench.
– Best season –
Ronaldo himself acknowledged to sports daily Marca late last year that it was a “fantastic season,” indeed “perhaps my best on an individual and team level.”
His achievements will almost certainly see him once again shut out longtime rival Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid’s French striker Antoine Griezmann for the FIFA award.
His Euro 2016 final injury aside, the only other blip of sorts for Ronaldo, 31, was the fact he was named in the Football Leaks financial scandal.
He and his entourage have strenuously denied claims that he has illegally stashed some 150 million euros in offshore tax havens and Swiss bank accounts.
But it unlikely that issue will trouble the national coaches and skippers and journalists called upon to seal their FIFA choice.
Zidane, meanwhile, will face challenges from Claudio Ranieri, surprise English Premier League winner with Leicester, and Portugal boss Fernando Santos for the top coach award.
“Zizou” acknowledges he is still a novice as coach — having landed the top job at the Bernabeu on replacing the sacked Rafa Benitez mid-season.
But he promptly secured glory in Europe and added the European Super Cup and World Club Cup for good measure — not bad going for a debutant.
Ranieri, meanwhile, secured Leicester’s first league crown against all the odds in a success that stunned the sporting world
Zidane, 44, modestly says he does not expect to win.
“It would be normal to give it to someone else — I’ve just started” as coach, he notes.
“It’s all new for me. I have to keep working.”