Lionel Messi deposed eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo to take back his crown as the undisputed king of world football by lifting a record fifth Ballon d’Or on Monday.
Much has changed since, just 12 months ago, a disgruntled Messi, fresh from losing a World Cup final and disillusioned with coach Luis Enrique’s regime at Barcelona, sat in stony silence as Ronaldo announced his intention to hunt down the Argentine’s then-record four Ballon d’Or haul.
A year on, the roles were reversed, Messi’s record now even further beyond Ronaldo’s reach in the personal duel between the two men who have taken standards to unseen heights in their domination of the sport during the past decade.
Rarely has there been such little debate over who was the deserving winner. Even in the Spanish capital, unlike in previous years, there was no campaign for Ronaldo in the year he became Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer.
In Zurich last year, Messi had even cast doubt on his future at Barcelona. His benching for a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad the most ignominious start to what would turn out to be the second most successful in Barca’s 116-year history.
Messi missed an open training session with the club’s fans, Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was sacked and club legend Carles Puyol walked. Enrique would have followed suit had Messi demanded it.
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