The ranking reflects a year that saw Ronaldo collect winner’s medals from the Champions League and Euro, while finishing as top scorer in the former and Silver Boot laureate a second-placed prize for goals and assists combined in the latter. Ronaldo scored times in the calendar year. He was the headline player in two contrasting European champion teams: one steely underdogs; the other preening overdog. Throughout he performed with undying efficiency in his favoured attacking areas, a marvel of the sporting age who turns in two months’ time but remains an acme of preening, packed athletic perfection.There are some notable trends further down the list. Players at Spanish clubs occupy the top six spots. Spain is also the most heavily represented nation for the fifth year in a row, ahead of France who surge up into joint second with Brazil. Ten Germans make the cut. Euro champs Portugal have seven players, up from just one last year. England have four top one fewer than Belgium, one more than Uruguay. Wayne Rooney, the control in that Ronaldo experiment, drops out of the list for the first time. Rooney received two votes this year.Andorra’s Jordi Rubio was dismissed in the minute and Marc Rebés followed nine minutes later, both for fouls on Ronaldo.
Ronaldo opened his account after seconds, driving the ball home after Andorra failed to clear a corner, and headed home Ricardo Quaresma’s cross in the fourth minute. José Fonte was brilliantly denied by the Andorra goalkeeper, Josep Gómes, André Silva hit the bar and Ronaldo was close with another header before João Cancelo added Portugal’s third in the minute. The European champions, Portugal, suffered a defeat away to Switzerland in their opening World Cup Group B qualifier. Breel Embolo headed the Swiss in front at St Jakob-Park on minutes, before Admir Mehmedi fired in a second on the half-hour. Fernando Santos’ side, missing Cristiano Ronaldo who has just returned to training with Real Madrid after limping out of the Euro final because of a knee injury, failed to mount a recovery and are next in action at home to Andorra in October. All awards are, of course, a matter of opinion. The Guardian top is at least a broad and impartial church. This year votes were drawn from an expanded panel of judges based in countries, from a diverse portfolio of eminent former professionals including Javier Zanetti, Hernan Crespo and Faustino Asprilla to a selection of football broadcasters and journalists from all across the globe. At the end of which Ronaldo beat Messi to top spot by a nose on the overall scoring system, with Antoine Griezmann a way back in third. Ronaldo completed his hat-trick two minutes after the restart when he volleyed in an André Gomes cross and scored his fourth in the minute after Fonte headed Quaresma’s cross into his path. André Silva added the sixth with a deflected shot. In Group H a brace of goals from the Everton forward Romelu Lukaku helped secure a win in Cyprus for the new Belgium manager Roberto Martínez. The former Everton manager saw his side beaten by Spain in Brussels last week but they delivered the required performance in Nicosia.
Greece extended their lead with two more quick goals before half-time through Kostas Fortounis and Vassilis Torosidis. In Tuesday night’s other Group B fixtures, Latvia won in Andorra with a header from Valerijs Sabala at the start of the second half while the Faroe Islands held Hungary to a goalless draw in Torshavn. Albania snatched a late win over Macedonia as they resumed the Group G qualifier which was abandoned due to torrential rain in Shkoder on Monday. As the teams played out the final quarter of an hour, with the scores level, Bekim Balaj netted with a minute left when he glanced in from a free-kick to secure all three points for Albania. Lukaku, who played for Martínez at Goodison Park, put the visitors in front on minutes with a diving header and produced another close-range finish to nod in a second on the hour. Yannick Carrasco slotted in a third with nine minutes left, converting a pass from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. As ever polls like this raise questions about the role of the individual in what remains, for all the most energetic efforts of the marketeers, a team sport. The enduring beauty of football lies in the density of its patterns, the fine-point push and pull of team-play, the chemistry of tactics and systems.Sweden started life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a draw against Holland in their Group A match at the Friends Arena. Holland had dominated large spells of the first half but found themselves behind on minutes when Marcus Berg chipped the ball over the goalkeeper from the edge of the penalty area. The Dutch levelled on minutes when their captain, Wesley Sneijder, slotted in after Daryl Janmaat’s shot was saved and thought they had won it in stoppage time with a header from the substitute Bas Dost, which was ruled out for what looked minimal contact with the defender. Bulgaria went ahead through Dimitar Rangelov on minutes but found themselves fighting back with a goal from Marcelinho and a free-kick by Ivelin Popov before Bohnert’s late strike and then Aleksandar Tonev sparked wild celebrations from the home supporters. Bosnia-Herzegovina got their Group H campaign off to a winning start with a comfortable win over Estonia in Zenica. Emir Spahic headed the hosts in front with the Roma striker Edin Dzeko adding a second from the penalty spot. Further goals from Haris Medunjanin, Vedad Ibisevic and a second by Spahic in stoppage time completed the rout. Still though the eye is drawn to the headline acts. Predictably enough the top are all attackers, with Luka Modric the first midfielder to appear, and Diego Godín and Sergio Ramos the top ranked defenders at and respectively. Like Ronaldo, Pepe of Portugal and Real Madrid was also a major part of those Champions League and Euro-winning teams. Pepe was also in Uefa’s Euro team of the tournament. But here he slots in our poll, just behind Mesut Özil.