Ronaldo: Messi is a slight step ahead
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“The FIFA Ballon d’Or is not quite on the same level as the Oscars, but we’re not that far away.”

Those were the words of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter about the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala at the press conference, held in Sao Paulo on Thursday, to announce the final three candidates for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football, FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football, and the FIFA Puskás Award.

President Blatter was joined on the stage by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, Amaury Group CEO Francois Moriniere, legendary former Brazil striker Ronaldo and his female compatriot Marta. Afterwards, they answered questioned from the media. FIFA.com recounts some of their responses.

Has it been an important year for women’s football?
President Blatter:
It was a great year for women’s football in 2012. We had the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan, where for first time in FIFA history, a women’s competition was organised in an Islamic country. This was a milestone in the development of women’s football and for women’s right all around the world. And then we had the [Women’s] Olympic Football Tournament with 12 teams. Can you imagine having over 70,000 people in Wembley Stadium to witness the final of a women’s football tournament? Can you imagine having 660,000 go to women’s football matches during the Olympics? And it was in England, where they have a great football tradition. I’d say women’s football was at its best this year.

What did you think of the shortlist of forwards for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI?
Marta:
I would like to see a team like that, with of all those players. They are players who stood out all year in competitive leagues. That list couldn’t be a better one. I would like to see more Brazilian players on it, but at least Brazil has one representative.

Of the three candidates, who do you think deserves the Ballon d’Or?
Ronaldo:
I think Messi and Ronaldo are well ahead of Iniesta, who is still a great player and deserves to be there. Without doubt, Ronaldo will win the Ballon d’Or [again]. He is a fantastic player. But I think Messi is still a slight step ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Let’s see on 7 January.

Many people in Brazil feel Neymar should be one of the three nominees. Why do you feel he isn’t and what can he do to get there in the future?
Ronaldo:
Neymar was on the 23-man list. That is a big achievement for someone who plays in Brazil. I believe for Neymar to make the three-man shortlist he will have to play in Europe or to do really well for the national team in 2014, when the whole world will see him. Neymar is Brazil’s best player. We all know his potential, we know he deserves to be on the three-man shortlist, but the rest of the world doesn’t see him enough to know this. Depending on his ambition, the shortest path to getting there is to play in Europe.

You, Zinedine Zidane and Messi have a joint-record three FIFA Ballon D’Ors. How would you feel if Messi surpassed you?
Ronaldo:
I think it’s become a two-man fight for this individual award between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. In my era, there was Zidane competing against me, there was Figo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaucho, David Beckham all competing against me. There was a list of around ten likely winners every year, and every one of them would have been a worthy winner. But I have absolutely no problem with Messi winning a fourth title. I’m not vain, I don’t mind him surpassing my record. I love watching his football, it’s a pleasure, and I wish him all the best.