'Maybe FIFA tried to please Ronaldo...'
ESPN FC: Best for the Ballon D'or?
UEFA president Michel Platini has joked that FIFA deliberately pushed back voting on the 2013 Ballon d’Or award to give Cristiano Ronaldo a better chance of winning.
The deadline for national team coaches and captains, and participating journalists, to submit their top three choices for the FIFA-organised prize had been Friday Nov. 15, with Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery then the clear favourite in the betting.
However, the following Tuesday, just as the final World Cup qualifying playoff second legs were taking place, it emerged that the date was to be extended to Nov. 29. This has allowed voters to take into account Ronaldo’s spectacular hat trick in Sweden, which clinched Portugal’s place at next summer’s finals in Brazil.
Platini joked to AS that the timing looked suspicious.
“It is a FIFA decision which coincided with the Portugal playoff for the World Cup in Brazil, with Cristiano’s three goals in the game against Sweden,” he said with a smile.
Laughing, he added: “It could be that FIFA did it to please Cristiano…”
The Frenchman said that Ronaldo, Ribery and Lionel Messi were all excellent candidates, making this year’s choice of winner especially difficult.
“It seems the favourites are Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ribery,” Platini said. “The first two are very good, and Ribery is the one who has won everything. They are three great players. The choice of the Ballon d’Or this year is the most difficult in the history of the trophy.”
The extension of this year’s voting period came after Blatter had upset Ronaldo by mocking him in front of students at Oxford University, leading to claims of a conspiracy at the world’s governing body to deny the Real Madrid player the prize.
Asked by Radio Marca whether Blatter had tried to call him to apologise for the incident, Ronaldo also tried to deflect the issue using humour.
“I do not have a phone,” he laughed. “My secretary has one, but I do not... I do not use the phone. That sort of stuff does not reach me.”
The former Manchester United player, speaking as he picked up Marca’s Alfredo Di Stefano award for its player of the 2012-13 La Liga season, would not reveal if he planned to attend the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich on Jan. 13.
“What is most important is to enjoy this Marca award and thank Di Stefano, who has made a big effort to come down here to present it to me, which makes me really happy,” Ronaldo said. “That's what matters to me.”
Ribery, who won the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League with Bayern last season, told Canal Plus that pushing back the closing date for voting had been unfortunate, although it did not particularly bother him.
“It did not annoy me,” Ribery said. “But it is a pity that this happened in the year when I was in the race. The Ballon d’Or is a dream, but in any case I have done what I had to do on the pitch and off it.”