Cristiano Ronaldo is officially the world’s best player for the second straight year, as he received the 2014 Ballon d’Or on Monday night.
The Real Madrid and Portugal forward was awarded FIFA’s top individual honour over Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Ronaldo, 29, took home the award for the third time in his career, after also winning it in 2008. He and Messi have been the only players to receive the award since then, with the Argentine earning the honour for four straight years from 2009 to 2012.
The Portuguese earned 37.66 percent of the votes, while Messi edged Neuer, 15.76 to 15.72 percent, for runner-up.
“I would like to thank all of those who voted for me,” Ronaldo said as he accepted the award. “It has been an incredible year. I would like to continue the work that I have done so far. I want to try to improve, to become better as each day goes by.
“I never thought that I would bring this trophy back home on three occasions. I want to become one of the greatest players of all time.”
Ronaldo set a record by scoring 17 goals in last season’s Champions League, guiding Madrid to their 10th title, the long-awaited La Decima. He scored twice in the semifinals against Bayern Munich and the crowning goal in the final against Atletico Madrid.
This season, he has scored a remarkable 26 goals in 16 games in La Liga and an additional five goals in six Champions League games.
Ronaldo did have a relatively disappointing World Cup, scoring once in three games as Portugal were eliminated in the group stage after failing to beat Germany and the United States.
Earlier in Monday’s ceremony, tennis star Rafael Nadal addressed Ronaldo in a video message, saying: “I want to congratulate you on the year you’ve had. I consider your drive and desire to improve on a daily basis a fantastic example for the younger generations.”
Neuer was a key part of Germany’s run to the World Cup title and received plaudits for his consistent willingness to leave his penalty area to clear loose balls.
Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the World Cup after scoring four goals and playing a decisive role in taking Argentina to the final. He also became the all-time leading scorer in La Liga (259 goals) and the Champions League (75 goals) last year.
The Ballon d’Or was presented solely by France Football until 2009, and the publication joined with FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award from the 2010 edition.
All three Ballon d’Or finalists were also named to the FIFPro World XI earlier on Monday.