Football

Neymar would win Ballon d'Or with Real: Perez

Real Madrid chief opens door for ex-Barca striker to join them

On the same day that his star player won a record-equalling fifth Ballon d'Or, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was openly wooing another player instead.

Real superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, 32, beat Barcelona's Lionel Messi and seven of Real's Champions League-winning players to claim the Ballon d'Or for a second straight year and fifth time overall yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain from Real's arch-rivals Barcelona for a world-record fee of 222 million euros (S$353.3m) in August, was third.

Yesterday, Perez made no secret of his undying interest in the 25-year-old Neymar, even at the risk of incurring PSG's wrath.

Perez said on El Larguero, a Spanish radio show: "Being at Real would make it easier for Neymar to win the Ballon d'Or.

"Real are a club who allow great players to become even better, to reach another level, while PSG have had very few winners, even if they have grown a lot recently.

"Neymar was third in the voting and others could emerge but it will be very difficult for anyone to take away the lead from these two players (Ronaldo and Messi).

"Everyone knows I wanted to sign him (Neymar) before but this is Ronaldo's day, he deserves this award."

Perez had attempted to bring Neymar from Brazilian club Santos on several occasions, before the player opted in 2013 to join Barca, where he formed a lethal partnership with Messi and Luis Suarez.

Messi and Ronaldo have maintained a stranglehold on the award for the last 10 years.

The last player other than the duo to win the Ballon d'Or, which is decided through a journalists' ballot, was Kaka, who won with AC Milan in 2007.

By winning his fifth award, Ronaldo has drawn level with the 30-year-old Messi and reaffirmed his place as equal partner in the greatest player rivalry the game has ever seen.

However, the Portugal captain, who will travel to Russia next year in search of World Cup glory after winning last year's European Championship, is not contented.

He told French daily L'Equipe: "I want seven. Five is good but seven is my lucky number so seven would be great. I want seven children (he has four) and seven Ballons d'Or."

Ronaldo won the award for his role in Real's phenomenal 2016/17 season, in which they pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title and became the first European champions to retain their crown in the Champions League era.

Ronaldo scored 12 goals in last season's Champions League, including two in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the final, and 25 in La Liga.

The personal and team success has convinced one man that he belongs among the best to ever play the game.

"When I finish my career, I will look at the statistics to see if I'm among the best," Ronaldo added. "Surely I will be." - WIRE SERVICES

BALLON D'OR 2017 RANKINGS

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

3. Neymar (Paris St Germain)

4. Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

5. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

6. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

7. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain)

8. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

10. Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Football