Ronaldo earns honor as FIFA's best player
ZURICH — Cristiano Ronaldo has won the FIFA Ballon d'Or award for 2013, ending Lionel Messi's four-year run as the world's best player.
Ronaldo scored 69 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal last year, and his stunning hat trick against Sweden in a decisive World Cup playoff was perhaps the defining individual performance.
"There are no words to describe this moment," said Ronaldo, who was sobbing in tears after accepting the trophy with his young son, also named Cristiano, beside him on stage.
He beat out Barcelona's Messi and France winger Franck Ribery, who helped Champions League winner Bayern Munich to a sweep of major titles.
Germany dominated the other major awards, with goalkeeper Nadine Angerer named women's player of the year ahead of United States forward Abby Wambach, last year's winner, and Marta of Brazil.
Voting was done by national team captains and coaches, plus selected journalists, in FIFA's 209 member countries who chose their top 3 preferences.
In a tight race, Ronaldo received 1,365 points, Messi had 1,205 and Ribery got 1,127.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann voted Ribery first, followed by Gareth Bale and Radamel Falcao, while American captain Clint Dempsey had Ronaldo first followed by Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Paul Kennedy of Soccer America voted Ronaldo first, followed by Messi and Ribery.
Pele, after a dramatic pause and smile, read out Ronaldo's name. The Madrid star rolled back his head and closed his eyes, grinning, then kissed his girlfriend, model Irina Shayk, before going up to the stage.
"People who know me know how many people helped me," the emotional winner said in Portuguese. "If I have forgotten anyone, I do apologize because I am deeply moved."
Pele greeted Ronaldo minutes after he also cried on stage when collecting an honorary Ballon d'Or for his own outstanding career.
Ronaldo had to wait five years since first winning the award as a Manchester United player, as Messi found a way to overshadow him in each of the past four years — despite the Portugal winger's prolific scoring for Madrid. However, Ronaldo was heavily favored this time after FIFA extended the balloting deadline beyond the World Cup playoffs in November and allowed voters to change preferences.
The Portugal star's display in Stockholm was so impressive it seemed certain to sway voters at a time when Messi was sidelined by his third injury of the year.
Still, FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio said Monday the standings were unchanged by the voting rules adjustment, which raised the turnout from around 50 to 88 percent.
Ronaldo said earlier Monday that he made peace with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, whose stated personal preference last October for Messi sparked speculation that the eventual winner would snub the ceremony.
"We talked over the telephone and everything was cleared," Ronaldo at a news conference before the ceremony. "This is no longer an issue, neither for us nor for football."
Though Ribery lost, Bayern got one victory as Jupp Heynckes won the coaching award for leading the team to a Champions League, Bundesliga and national cup treble last season before he retired. Heynckes defeated Juergen Klopp, whose Borussia Dortmund team lost the all-German Champions League final, and Alex Ferguson, who retired after winning another Premier League title for Manchester United.
Germany national team coach Sylvia Neid won the women's award, beating Sweden coach Pia Sundhage and Ralf Kellermann, who led Wolfsburg to the Champions League title.
The World XI elected by players in the FIFPro group of national unions was: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich, Germany); Dani Alves (Barcelona, Brazil), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil), Philipp Lahm (Bayern, Germany); Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain), Ribery (Bayern, France); Ronaldo (Madrid, Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG, Sweden), and Messi (Barcelona, Argentina).
Ibrahimovic won a fans' online vote to get the Puskas Award for best goal, a long-range bicycle kick for Sweden against England in a November 2012 friendly.
Blatter, an International Olympic Committee member, gave his presidential award to Jacques Rogge, the IOC President for 12 years until reaching his term limit last September.
The Afghanistan football federation got the fair play award after hosting its first international match in more than a decade.
Pele, viewed by many as the greatest footballer ever, finally received a Ballon d'Or trophy which he could never get during his career when the original prize created by France Football magazine in 1956 was restricted to European players.
The only player to win the World Cup three times — in 1958, '62 and '70 — was given a standing ovation at the Zurich Kongresshaus.
"I promised my family I would not cry but I am emotional," Pele said. "Thank God, I complete my trophies at home."