Neymar backs Cristiano Ronaldo – and not Lionel Messi – to win a fourth Ballon d’Or

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Neymar has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to win a fourth Ballon d’Or ahead of his Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi after lifting the Champions League and Euro 2016 with club and country.

The Portuguese forward continues to prove his detractors wrong after scoring the winning penalty during the shoot-out victory against Atletico in May to help guide Real Madrid to an 11th European Cup in their illustrious history.

Despite operating within a side considered average at international level, Ronaldo also inspired Portugal to win the European Championship over the course of the summer, despite being cruelly injured during the final against France.

Barca forward Neymar has subsequently said he believes the former Manchester United man is closing in on Messi’s record of five Ballon d’Or gongs, awarded to the player considered to have been the best in the world over the previous calendar year.

Speaking to Lance, the Brazilian said: “Conquering trophies counts for a lot. He won the Champions League and now the Euros. He’s very close [to the Ballon d’Or]. Cristiano is a great player, I’m not hesitant on this.”

Neymar could only finish third behind the eclectic pair last time around. During the most recent La Liga campaign, Ronaldo scored 35 goals compared to Messi’s 24 strikes, although the Argentine’s season was blighted by injury and off-field problems.

RONALDO, BALE ON UEFA BEST PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Ronaldo and his Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale headlined a 10-man shortlist announced on Monday for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.

Ronaldo struck the winning spot-kick as Real claimed an 11th Champions League title, beating city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in May, before leading his country to Euro 2016 glory.

Fellow Portugal and Real team-mate Pepe also features on the shortlist along with Wales star Bale, who steered his country to the semi-finals of the European Championship in their first appearance at a major finals since 1958.

Ronaldo is favourite to the win the award for a second time, after scooping the honours in 2013-14, which would see him draw level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann was also nominated after his six goals at Euro 2016 earned him the player of the tournament and the Golden Boot, only for France to fall short against Portugal in the final.

Messi was one of two Barcelona players to make the list along with Luis Suarez, while Bayern Munich duo Manuel Neuer and Thomas Mueller, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Real midfielder Toni Kroos were also included.

The players were selected by journalists from each of UEFA’s 55 members associations who will vote for a second time on August 5 to determine the three finalists. The winner of the award will be announced in Monaco on August 25 when the draw for the Champions League group stage is made.