"You're talking to [God] now," Zlatan Ibrahimovic told a reporter ahead of Sweden's World Cup playoff return against Portugal. But after his brazen boast, Ibra was left in the shadows as Cristiano Ronaldo's Solna spectacular sent the Swedes packing - and the Portuguese to Brazil 2014. So if Ibra is God, how would we describe Ronaldo right now?
Zlatan's two goals gave Sweden high hopes of qualification as the Scandinavians took a 2-1 lead and leveled the aggregate score at 2-2. But Ronaldo, who had hit the winner in Lisbon and opened the scoring in the return, added two more stunning strikes to ensure Portugal's presence in Brazil next summer.
In doing so, the 28-year-old continued what has been the finest year yet of his professional career. And as FIFA decided to extend voting for the Ballon d'Or (originally closed on Nov. 15) to the end of the month, the Portuguese is now the firm favorite to claim the prestigious prize for a second time and bring to an end Lionel Messi's monopoly of the individual honor.
The Argentine has won the award for each of the past four years and is in the running for the prize again this time, but his injury-interrupted 2013 means he is not the strong favorite he has been in previous editions. Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery is also among the contenders after winning it all with the Bavarians last season, but, in terms of individual brilliance, 2013 has been all about Cristiano.
Ronaldo's staggering statistics over the past 11 months may not have included a team trophy, but the Portuguese has been the outstanding individual player of this calendar year. So, with that in mind, Goal takes a look at the Real Madrid forward's incredible numbers in 2013.
66 - Ronaldo has hit 66 goals so far for club and country this year, beating his previous record of 63, in 2012. And he still has six more games to add to that tally (Madrid has eight matches left in 2013 but Cristiano is suspended for the two Copa del Rey clashes against Olimpic de Xativa). The 66 goals have come in just 55 appearances for Madrid and Portugal. Last year's 63 came in 71 appearances.
64 - By comparison, Ronaldo's rivals for the next Ballon d'Or crown, Messi and Ribery, have scored a combined 64 goals in 2013.
56 - The bulk of Cristiano's goals in 2013 have come with Madrid. The Portuguese has netted 56 times in 46 official games for his club this year.
47 - The Madeira-born forward's triple against Sweden saw him reach 47 international goals and equal the Portuguese record held by former Paris Saint-Germain striker Pauleta. One more goal will see Ronaldo, who has 109 Seleccao caps to his name, claim the record outright.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Lionel Messi
- Franck Ribery