- Portuguese and Real Madrid great Cristiano Ronaldo won his third Ballon d'Or on Monday at the FIFA ceremony in Zurich to edge within one of his eternal rival Barcelona's Argentinian magician Lionel Messi.
ZURICH - Portuguese and Real Madrid great Cristiano Ronaldo won his third Ballon d'Or on Monday at the FIFA ceremony in Zurich to edge within one of his eternal rival Barcelona's Argentinian magician Lionel Messi.
The 29-year-old forward -- who played a key role in Real Madrid's charge to a 10th Champions League trophy -- beat Messi and Germany's World Cup winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Ronaldo was the star of the night in which Real teammate James Rodriguez won the goal of the year award and Germany's Joachim Loew was declared coach of the year.
"I never thought I would win this trophy on three occasions," Ronaldo said in his victory speech, signalling there would be no letup in his quest for football glory.
Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) poses holding his 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or award for player of the year with FIFA president Sepp Blatter (C) during the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 12, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
"I want to be one of the greatest players of all time and of course this requires a lot of effort," added the Portuguese striker who also won the award in 2013 and in 2008."
Ronaldo, whose son and mother were present and burst into tears when he went up to collect the award, praised his team-mates but he also paid homage to his family.
"I would like to thank my mother, to my father, who is in heaven and who is looking down on me, to my family," said Ronaldo.
"It has been an unforgettable year and to win a trophy of this importance is unimaginable."
The always well-groomed Portuguese then took to Twitter to express his joy.
"2014 was full of incredible moments. Thank you all!" he tweeted.
Ronaldo led Real Madrid to their 10th European Champions League crown -- their first in 12 years -- in sensational style in 2014, smashing Messi's record of 15 Champions League goals in a single season with 17 in just 11 appearances.
The only real disappointment for him was that a patellar tendinosis problem in his left knee contributed to an underwhelming World Cup for the Portugal captain.
Ronaldo cruised to victory garnering 37.66% of the votes of the 181 national team coaches, 182 national team captains, and 181 media representatives who voted. Messi finished second with 15.76% and Neuer just adrift of the Argentinian with 15.72%.
Loew, who moved up from assistant coach to the top job after the 2006 World Cup which Germany hosted and reached the semi-finals, said that the award rounded off a sensational year.
"It is for me a huge honour, it is the icing on the cake and the cake was winning the World Cup," said Loew.
Loew, who also guided Germany to the Euro 2008 final where they lost to Spain, said that Germany's win in Brazil was no accident but had been the fruits of long hard labour.
"Winning the World Cup was the consequence of many years hard work and lots of right decisions."
Loew won the award with 36.23% of all votes.
Real Madrid's Italian handler Carlo Ancelotti was second with 22.06% with Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone third (19.02%) after an extraordinary season in which he led them to the Spanish title, ending the dominance of Real and Barca, and also to the Champions League final where they led their city rivals till the final minute.
Rodriguez's sublime volley for Colombia against Uruguay in their last 16 match at the World Cup was a worthy winner for goal of the year voted on by the public.
The 23-year-old -- who was outstanding as Colombia reached the quarter-finals only to lose to Brazil -- came out ahead of Robin van Persie's header at full stretch against Spain in the World Cup final group game against Spain and surprise finalist Irishwoman Stephanie Roche.
Rodriguez, who earned a big money move to Real Madrid on the back of his performances at the World Cup, said this was a special award for his country.
"I am happy, I would like to thank all those who voted," said Rodriguez.
"It is a very special goal for me and for all of Colombia. These are words of happiness and gratitude."
Football: Ronaldo leaves Messi in shade with third Ballon d''Or