Barcelona: Lionel Messi has congratulated Cristiano Ronaldo on winning the 2013 Ballon d’Or, describing the Real Madrid forward as a “deserved winner.”
Messi had won the previous four awards but finished runner-up to the Portuguese in the latest balloting, with Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery in third.
Asked in the post-ceremony mixed zone about losing out to Ronaldo, Messi was magnanimous and said he understood why Ronaldo cried upon receiving the trophy.
“It is a normal emotion at a time of excitement,” Messi said.
“I want to congratulate Cristiano because he was the deserved winner.”
When asked why he felt he did not win this year, Messi was reluctant to pontificate on the issue.
“I have nothing to say about that. I think it was a good year for all three of us so I have nothing to complain about and no need to make excuses.
“I don’t know if it would have been different without the injuries.
“It’s true I didn’t get right until the semi-finals of the Champions League and this year I got injured at the beginning of the season.
“But that has nothing to do with this. Cristiano merits the win.”
Messi added that he hoped now to put a hard year behind him and concentrate on a better 12 months to come.
“It was a difficult year, not just for injuries but for things that were said about me and my family. Hopefully I can enjoy football in 2014.”
Pele, meanwhile, compared Cristiano to Eusebio.
“To me, the last true great was (France playmaker Zinedine) Zidane.
“He stayed at the same very high level for at least 10 years,” Pele, who was awarded a honorary Ballon d’Or, told France Football magazine on Tuesday.
Ronaldo is on the right path, though, and reminded the three-times World Cup winner of former Portugal striker Eusebio, the top scorer at the 1966 World Cup, who died earlier this month at the age of 71.
“Today Messi and Cristiano are above the rest. Ronaldo reminds me of Eusebio, he is well bred.
“He has the elegance and the creativity of the great players,” Pele said.
Winning the World Cup used to have greater significance in the voting for the Ballon d’Or, but the success of Cristiano and Messi, who won the award from 2009-12, proved that was no longer true, according to the Brazilian.
“It is perhaps less important than it used to be when I was playing,” Pele said of the showpiece tournament.
Messi and Ronaldo will look forward to win the World Cup later this year. For both, it will be a first.
“I’m not saying it is not essential to win the World Cup, but the Champions League now has the same considerable impact celebrity-wise,” he said.