MADRID -- Cristiano Ronaldo was so delighted to win the prestigious FIFA Ballon d'Or award Monday in Zurich that he could hardly speak through his tears.
"Words cannot express how I feel at this moment," said a tearful Ronaldo, after being given the award by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former Brazilian idol Pele.
"I want to say thank you to Real Madrid, to Portugal and to my family, who are all here. This is an enormous honor for me."
Ronaldo, 28, picked up 27.99 per cent of the votes. Messi, of Barcelona and Argentina -- who had won the last four editions -- took 24.72 per cent this time.
Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich and France finished third with 23.39 per cent.
Ronaldo's victory was exuberantly celebrated in the Madrid media, though most sections of the Catalan media were disappointed the award had not gone again to Messi.
"This year he really deserved it. Besides, Messi has had a poor year because of various injuries," commented Radio Marca.
Rival station Cadena COPE said: "He (Ronaldo) has been more effective this year than Messi, there is little doubt about that."
COPE expressed its satisfaction at the award staying inside the Spanish Liga.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez who was present at the FIFA gala said: "Justice has been done because Ronaldo is the best player in the world. It is a source of pride for us that he is our team."
Perez was the man who raised eyebrows in 2009 by paying Manchester United a world record fee of 96 million euros (131.3 million dollars) for Ronaldo.
The Portuguese powerhouse first won the Ballon d'Or in 2008 after helping United to win the Champions League. Afterwards, he had to put up with Messi winning it four times consecutively -- despite all his goals for Real.
In September Real boss Perez extended Ronaldo's contract -- which was due to expire in 2015 -- until 2018, amid rumors about his wanting to return to the English Premier League and about a record-breaking offer from French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
"Ronaldo is our flagship, and we want him to play out his entire career here with us. He is our most important player for many years," said Perez when Ronaldo signed on for another three years in Madrid.
Then Ronaldo turned his attention to the Ballon d'Or. He was keen to regain the award and thus end four years of domination by Messi.
Unlike Messi and Ribery, Ronaldo did not win any team trophies in 2013. Despite running up the astonishing total of 69 goals in all competitions, his Real Madrid finished second in La Liga behind Barcelona, lost the Spanish cup final to Atletico Madrid and were edged out of the Champions League in the semi-finals by Borussia Dortmund.
Even so, it was a good year for the powerful winger-cum-striker, a year that he capped by guiding Portugal to the World Cup finals by scoring all four of his country's goals in the playoff wins against Sweden.
"Quite simply, we would not have not reached the finals were it not for Ronaldo. He was absolutely decisive against Sweden, the big difference between the two teams," Lisbon paper A Bola said in its review of 2013.
Ronaldo finished second behind Messi in last season's Spanish Liga scoring chart, 34 goals to 46, but he is on top of the chart this season with 20 goals.
Ronaldo is also top of the Champions League scoring list with nine goals, and looking forward to facing German side Schalke 04 in the round of 32.
"Quite simply, we would not have not reached the World Cup finals were it not for Ronaldo. He was absolutely decisive against Sweden, the big difference between the two teams," Lisbon paper A Bola said in its review of 2013.
Ronaldo is so popular in Portugal -- where he is national captain -- that hundreds of visitors have already flocked to the personal museum that the striker has opened, on his native island of Madeira.
Monday's award will surely increase the number of visitors to the museum.
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