Cristiano Ronaldo in tears as he wins Fifa Ballon d'Or 2013
Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or at an awards ceremony in Zurich, ending Lionel Messi's four-year reign as holder of the crown.
Real Madrid forward Ronaldo clinched the prize for the world's best player for the second time in his career after finishing ahead of Barcelona playmaker Messi and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery in the voting.
Ronaldo had finished runner-up three times in the past four years to Messi since winning both the Ballon D'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008, before the two trophies became one.
In tears as he received the award, he said: "First of all I have to say a great thanks to all of my team-mates with the club and the national team. Without all of their efforts this would not have been possible. I am very happy, it is very difficult to win this award.
"Everybody that has been involved with me on a personal level I have to thank. My wife, my friends, my son. It is a tremendously emotional moment. All I can say is thank you to everybody that has been involved."
Portugal captain Ronaldo has been in phenomenal goalscoring form and in 2013 he netted 62 goals in 52 games for club and country.
That was not enough to help Madrid pick up any silverware or lead Portugal to an automatic qualifying berth to this summer's World Cup finals, but he did produce a number of memorable individual performances.
Among them was in the World Cup qualifying play-offs when he struck all four goals - including a brilliant second-leg hat-trick - as Portugal beat Sweden 4-2 on aggregate to book their spot in Brazil.
Ronaldo makes the cut
By Mark Staniforth
The underwear billboards lining many of Madrid's main thoroughfares provide one well-waxed reason why Cristiano Ronaldo is destined never to achieve the shabby populist charm of his closest rival for the title of the greatest footballer of his generation.
Perhaps that is precisely why the blundering scissors of Sepp Blatter cut so deep, when in an Oxford Union address in October the FIFA president joked of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi that "one has more expenses for the hairdresser for the other".
It was a barb which only served to accentuate the 'bridesmaid' tag which invariably comes hand-in-hand with being classified as second-best over three of the last four years: a gap no amount of salon hours or giant air-brushed images could hope to obscure.
In the global economic down-turn, it is Messi's anti-fame message which strikes more of a chord. Only a year in which he created most of his beauty on the pitch was ever going to haul Ronaldo to his rightful place back upon football's high altar.
In being crowned the world's best player in Zurich tonight, Ronaldo - a previous winner in 2008 and runner-up in 2009, 2011 and 2012, each time to Messi - becomes only the 10th multiple winner of the game's most prestigious individual award of that of its precursor, the European Footballer of the Year.
Salon or not, 2013 was a year in which Ronaldo proved he deserved to shine in the illustrious company of such double and triple winners as Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and (whisper it) Messi himself.
While the previously imperious Messi was ailed by a series of persistent injuries, Portugal's great talisman conjured arguably the greatest individual performance of the year to lift his nation almost single-handedly back into the World Cup finals.
On November 19 in Stockholm, with his team holding a slender first-leg lead on account of a goal the man himself inevitably converted, Ronaldo went head to head with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So often such individual billings fall flat, but on this night both men rose to the occasion, and Ronaldo, irresistibly, came out on top.
His hat-trick proved enough to snuff out the threat of the Swedes, for whom Ibrahimovic had scored twice in four second half minutes to briefly put his side ahead, and was most likely the night he sealed his elevation to the status he has publicly craved since 2008.
Yet it was merely the headline act in a year which despite appearances spectacularly vindicated Ronaldo's status as a football player of substance over style. He scored a remarkable 66 goals in 56 appearances for Real Madrid in 2013, notwithstanding his international exploits.
Here again the bridesmaid analogy rears its well-primped head. When Ronaldo ascended to the summit in 2008 he did so as an integral part of a Manchester United team which did the double of Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League success.
In 2013, Real were once again second-best to Barca, fuelling fears among Ronaldo's staunchest allies that once again the global football jury would reward a man whose performances produced tangible team success rather than one whose team flailed in spite of the extraordinary influence of their star man.
There was no such danger. He might have done little to curb his off-field exploits, but however much Blatter and his like might blunder into clumsy coiffure comparisons, the naked truth is that where 2013 was concerned, there was only ever one man who was going to cut it.
Fifa award winners
2013 Ballon d'Or: 1 Cristiano Ronaldo; 2 Lionel Messi; 3 Franck Ribery.
Women's world player of the year: 1 Nadine Angerer; 2 Abby Wambach; 3 Marta.
World coach of the year (men's football): 1 Jupp Heynckes; 2 Jurgen Klopp; 3 Sir Alex Ferguson.
World coach of the year (women's football): 1 Silvia Neid; 2 Ralf Kellermann; 3 Pia Sundhage.
Puskas Award: 1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic; 2 Nemanja Matic; 3 Neymar.
FIFPro World XI: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany); Dani Alves (Barcelona and Brazil), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain), Thiago Silva (Paris St Germain and Brazil); Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France), Xavi (Barcelona and Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St Germain and Sweden), Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina).
Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur: Pele.
Fair Play Award: Afghanistan Football Federation.
Presidential Award: Jacques Rogge.
Belfast Telegraph Digital