From Alkali Yusuf, Abuja
The Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Italian Player of the Year on the same night he was beaten by Lionel Messi to the football’s most prestigious award.
Ronaldo, 34, was conspicuous in his absence in Paris as Messi made history with a 6 Ballon d’Or win.
That put the Blaugrana star one ahead of his old rival, who last won the award in 2017.
Messi, 32, strengthened his claim as the world’s best player as he pipped Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk at a glitzy Paris ceremony – with Ronaldo voted down as third.
Van Dijk even aimed a dig at the Portuguese superstar when interviewed during the show.
Asked what the five-time winner’s absence meant for his own chances, the Dutch defender quipped: “Was Cristiano Ronaldo really a rival?”
Ronaldo, who scored 21 goals to fire Juventus to the Scudetto in his first season in Italy, was named Serie A Player of the Year and Striker of the Year at Monday’s Gran Gala del Calcio.
Picking up his awards, Ronaldo said: “I’m happy, the Italian championship is very difficult.
“I would like to thank all my Juventus team-mates and all the colleagues who voted for me. This year, I will try to repeat it.”
Juventus team-mate Georgio Chiellini was named alongside Ronaldo in the Team of the Year.
He insisted: “The Ballon d’Or was stolen from Ronaldo last year… Real Madrid has decided not to let him win.
“It was obvious. [Luka] Modric wasn’t even in his best year.
“This year was rather difficult with Ronaldo, Messi and Van Dijk, it’s like choosing between Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic”
“Cristiano was glad to be there tonight, otherwise he would not have come.
“He is not in the prime of his career but he is important for us.”
And agent Jorge Mendes insisted his client still ranks above Messi, despite his Ballon d’Or defeat.
Speaking at the Milan do, he said: “Cristiano is the best player in history, and you know it!”