Ronaldo shows no signs of decline as Madrid dominate in Zurich

BARCELONA: Madrid-based daily sports paper Marca called it “Gala Madrid” in their Tuesday edition after Real Madrid dominated the annual Fifa awards for 2016 in Zurich on Monday. Spanish newspaper El Pais — whose correspondent voted for Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Andres Iniesta as his top three -declared: “Zurich was white,” a reference to the colour of the famous Real Madrid shirts and the snow on the ground in the Swiss city.  Cristiano Ronaldo’s domination of the end of year individual awards — he won France Football’s Ballon d’Or in December — is symbolic of Real Madrid’s current superiority over Barcelona.

As the picture used on the front of Marca showed, Madrid were out in force in Zurich with club president Florentino Perez grinning from ear to ear surrounded by Ronaldo, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who had all been awarded their place in the FIFPro team of the year. There should also have been four Barcelona players taking to the post-ceremony ‘green’ carpet too but Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta were all back in Catalonia in preparation for a Spanish Cup second leg tie on Wednesday. It was hard to know if Ronaldo’s comment, as he lifted his award, that he wished they could have joined him but understood why they could not, was a swipe at their absence or a genuine understanding of their priorities.

Even if it was the latter, it was still him pointing the finger at their current predicament — 2-1 down after their first leg against Athletic Bilbao and therefore not really in a position to take time off for an award ceremony in which they did not win any ofthe main prizes. Madrid, meanwhile, are 3-0 up in their own Cup clash against Sevilla. “Ronaldo doesn’t forget Barcelona as he collects his prize,” said Barcelona-based Diario Sport. As if the name check made up for the fact that Leo Messi was voted second with 26.42 per cent of the vote to the 34.54 per cent gained by Ronaldo. “Some people made some campaigns against me,” said Ronaldo on Monday night, “football ones and non-football ones.” That was a clear reference to investigations into his tax affairs and also to the column inches, seemingly prematurely, dedicated to his on-the-pitch decline. — DPA