Is 'unlikable' Cristiano Ronaldo taking sheen off Ballon d'Or?

Willie Grace | 1/13/2015, 11:17 a.m. | Updated on 1/13/2015, 11:17 a.m.
Monday saw Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar Cristano Ronaldo crowned as winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or for a second ...

(CNN) -- Since 2008, FIFA's annual jamboree honoring the world's best player has been dominated by just two names. Ronaldo, Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldo.

Monday saw Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar Cristano Ronaldo crowned as winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or for a second year in a row. It came as scant surprise, given his club's phenomenal form in 2014 that saw the return of Champions League trophy -- and with it the coveted "decima," or tenth European triumph -- to the Bernabeu.

"It has been an incredible year," he said at the awards ceremony. "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."

Top of their game

This seven-year duopoly reflects the importance of these two supreme athletes on the game, and allows us to see how lucky we are to be able to witness the long summers of two of the finest players to ever grace the sport.

And part of the fascination lies in how different the two men are. Debating the relative merits of Ronaldo and his great rival Lionel Messi, talismans of Real and Barcelona, respectively, has been something of a parlor game in recent years.

It's easy to compare and contrast, at least superficially. On the one hand, the improbable, mercurial talent of the shaggy haired, oddly stooped figure of Messi, confusing defenders as much as inspiring his teammates to a higher level.

On the other: Ronaldo. A glistening, taut mass of muscle, neck like a tree trunk, powering forward relentlessly. He looks like he was created in a lab or a high tech factory; a Terminator, the ultimate footballer.

Media matters

The two couldn't be much more different, in style and, if you are to believe the majority of the media, likability.

Ronaldo has suffered the slings and arrows of a largely hostile press for much of his career, starting as a foal-limbed teen in Manchester, where he was often derided as a "show pony," for elaborate and unnecessary tricks, and -- a sin in the English game -- diving to win free kicks and penalties.

The negativity followed him to Madrid and a then-record transfer fee. It is largely Real's cheerleading press, AS and Marca, that give him a free pass; the rest of the global sporting media grudgingly accept his gifts, but are quick to level criticism when they feel it due.

He's often seen as a ball-hog, a selfish player who would rather shoot than pass to a teammate. That he has taken at least 10 shots at goal in nine matches doesn't exactly banish the perception.

That his fellow "galactico" Gareth Bale would have the temerity to take a shot (and miss) in a recent Liga game rather than pass to CR7, as the virtuoso has styled himself, earned him a withering look from the Portuguese master, and the opprobrium of fans.