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Ronaldo may benefit from Ballon d'Or voting extension

ESPN staff
November 20, 2013 « Nadal and Djokovic set for exhibition challenge | Chartbeat test »
Ronaldo netted a superb hattrick to book Portugal's place in Brazil

FIFA's decision to extend the voting for the 2013 Ballon d'Or has been viewed in Spain as a blatant ploy to ensure Cristiano Ronaldo wins the prize.

The deadline for national team coaches and captains, and participating journalists, to submit their top three choices had been last Friday, November 15, hours after the World Cup qualifier play-off first legs had finished, and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery was then clear favourite in the betting to take a first award.

However, that date has now been extended to November 29, and votes can be changed to take into account recent performances - such as Ronaldo's spectacular hat-trick on Tuesday against Sweden, which clinched Portugal's place at next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil.

Mundo Deportivo's Francesc Aguilar, reportedly France Football's voter in Spain, broke the news during Tuesday's matches with a series of tweets which suggested he suspected a conspiracy led by FIFA.

"I have no words," Aguilar tweeted. "FIFA and France Football have extended the period of voting to November 29, 2013. First the jury had to have voted by at least the 15th of this month. The second legs for Brazil 2014 were not included. That was just as unfair as this change is suspicious. Bit by bit FIFA are ruining the Ballon d'Or with the decisions which are taking place. You do not need to be a genius to see that this decision to extend the voting period for the FIFA Ballon d'Or benefits CR7."

News of the move to extend the voting period has been mostly welcomed in the Madrid press, which had been highly critical of FIFA president Sepp Blatter's recent mockery of Ronaldo, and played along with theories of a conspiracy to deny the Real Madrid player individual honours.

"The amazing performance by Cristiano Ronaldo last night in Solna has completely overturned the betting markets for the FIFA Ballon D'or 2013 winner," AS reported on Wednesday morning. "The Portuguese, who until last night was second favourite behind Franck Ribery, has for the first time moved in front of the Frenchman. His exhibition, and the extension of the voting, have been determinant. Furthermore, Lionel Messi has been left way back in third place."

Marca were running an online poll on Wednesday morning to ask its readers if the decision to extend the voting "would favour Cristiano Ronaldo". Of the first 4,000 voters, 81% said that it would.

Mundo Deportivo were less excited by the news, limiting its story to a short piece including excerpts from the circular sent out by FIFA and France Football "which extends the period of accepting votes with the end of guaranteeing the representation of the selecting media and all FIFA's member associations." The Catalan paper opted to illustrate the story with a photo of four-time winner Messi accepting the 2012 prize.

There has also been further confusion around the award, with Blatter suggesting last week that a five man shortlist would be chosen this year, but FIFA confirming on Tuesday that it would stick to its usual three nominees when the names are formally announced on December 9.

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