Ronaldo cancels January hair appointment

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Cristiano Ronaldo better make sure he has no hair appointment booked for Monday, Jan. 13.

Real Madrid's talisman has been named on the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or again, hours after being mocked by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

"One has more expenses for the hairdresser than the other," Blatter said during a Messi-versus-Ronaldo debate in front of the Oxford Union. A comment said in jest, perhaps, but one Ronaldo and his club did not take too kindly to, especially with the shortlist for world football's most coveted individual prize being announced so soon after.

-Blatter apologises as Ronaldo hits back
-Bayern dominate Ballon shortlist

-Alsonso to return against Sevilla Wednesday

Ronaldo has said publicly the award is not so high up on his agenda, but don't let him fool you. The Portuguese is desperate for the accolade, he's been working to win it, and for the last four years he's been trumped by his nemesis, Lionel Messi. People believed that as long as the Argentine was playing, Ronaldo would struggle to lift the prize again. He's desperate to prove them wrong, he wants to be the world's No. 1 -- officially.

So it comes as little surprise that the player, and his club, have reacted angrily to the comments made by Blatter at just the wrong time. "We, at Real Madrid, a club which has a special connection with FIFA in view of our position as a founding member, are profoundly disappointed by the whole episode and, as President of Real Madrid, I want you to know that we condemn your comments, which is why we would ask that you retract them to make up, to the extent possible, for the damage caused both to the player and the institution that we represent," Madrid president Florentino Perez said in a quickly-worded response.

Although much has been said against Blatter in recent years, you would assume these comments really were made in jest. So it shows just how desperately Madrid want their star man to win world football's biggest individual gong with the speed at which they reacted to the Swiss' comments -- a man who is an honorary member of the club.

Blatter's response was just as swift: "I regret that this situation at university ceremony has caused you so much distress and I would like to apologise for it," he said in a statement. "It was never my intention to cause discomfort or show a lack of respect to Real Madrid FC, one of its players or its support, not only because it is the founding club of FIFA but also because it is a club that I have followed and admired since I was a child."

Of course, Ronaldo's inclusion on the 23-man shortlist, drawn up by FIFA Committee members and France Football specialists, was no surprise. But the list brings about a healthier-than-usual debate as to who will win this year's accolade. Usually it's a two-way battle between Ronaldo and Messi, Madrid and Barcelona, but this year brings about more possibilities for world football's best player, and if anything that should suit the Portuguese.

The last four years Messi has been the clear winner. The top three are acknowledged at the ceremony, penned in for Zurich again in January, but the Argentine won by a country mile in most of the past four. The inclusion of players such as Frank Ribery, who won UEFA's best player award this year and scooped up trophy after trophy with Bayern Munich last season, should make the field of potential winners a more open one.

Messi has dominated recent vote, but his poorer-than-average year so far should make this year's contest a closer one. That's not to say Messi has had a bad year, but he sets his standards high -- the recent high benchmarks have not been met this season.

Others have caught up. The Germans are leading the way. Bayern Munich have more players than any other club shortlisted with Phillip Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Ribery, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger catching the eye. Munich won the Champions League last season and also won the Bundesliga and German Cup.

Their success last season was unrivaled and many predicted the start of a shift of power from La Liga and the Premier League to Germany. Dortmund's success in reaching the final of the Champions League at Wembley, only acted to back that up.

The Bavarians could well be favourites to see a player lift the accolade this season -- something unthinkable 12 months ago. Ribery stands out thanks to winning the UEFA award earlier this year, but Schweinsteiger, Robben and Mueller also shone throughout the season. The spotlight has shifted from Messi and Ronaldo to spread its light to Germany, too.

But while Messi's form has dipped, relative to recent years, and the Bayern group have risen, Ronaldo has carried on doing what he's been doing. Some say the award should not be judged on team awards and Ronaldo has none as Madrid suffered a season to forget as a team. But the goals continued to flow. Domestically, he has matched Messi since the turn of the year and he finished the season as top scorer in the Champions League.

A continuation this season has helped, with Ronaldo bagging seven goals in his opening three games in Europe. He's saved Madrid's bacon on a few occasions domestically, too.

He's scored as many as Messi in La Liga currently, with both players scoring eight goals, and form is key with international managers, captains and journalists set to vote on who they think is the best player in the world in 2013. Some decisions will have already been made but others' minds are there to be swung on just how those shortlisted perform in the coming match days. There's still a lot at stake.

That counts for those outside the Messi-Ronaldo bubble, too, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's hat-trick for Paris Saint-Germain catching the eye last week. Robert Lewandowski must stand a chance for becoming arguably the most in-demand player in Europe thanks to his form last season while Neymar's skills have been a hit throughout the year. This year's list is wide open.

Ronaldo is one of three players with ties to Los Blancos to be shortlisted. Gareth Bale is on there, largely thanks to his form in the English Premier League for Tottenham Hotspur last season, while Mesut Ozil, now at Arsenal, is on the 23-man list. There are also strong links for the manager award for the Bernabeu club, too, with current boss Carlo Ancelotti shortlisted and former manager Jose Mourinho also making the cut.

Whether Ronaldo finally wins the coveted award in January remains to be seen, but expect some top form from the Portuguese in the coming weeks as he looks to impress the voters -- starting with Sevilla's visit to the Bernabeu on Wednesday night. A perfect chance for Ancelotti's men to bounce back from their Clasico defeat at the weekend against a side who have not won away from home in a year.


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