With the winner of the 2012 Ballon d'Or to be decided on January 7th in Switzerland, Cristiano Ronaldo will be hoping he can finally knock Lionel Messi off his perch, but defeat could see him leave Real Madrid.
Form has never been an issue as far as Ronaldo is concerned but for the previous three seasons he has played second fiddle to the ever improving Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
The Argentine international has been crowned Ballon d'Or winner three consecutive years and looks set to win the award again on Monday night after breaking nearly every goalscoring record available in 2012.
If he does, almost no-one will complain but former Manchester United forward Ronaldo will not take the news well after a year that has seen him fall out with the capital club, demand full image rights and be increasingly linked with a return to Old Trafford.
Ronaldo's 2012 has been sensational. His title-winning goal against Barcelona at Camp Nou last season probably topping the pile of his countless goals scored but aside from doing what he does best, his time at Real Madrid has been in freefall.
It all began this time last year, January in Switzerland. Ronaldo did not appear at the Ballon d'Or award ceremony and felt downhearted after Madrid failed to back him in his bid to be crowned winner, only to be beaten by Messi.
In his next game he scored against Granada at Santiago Bernabeu but his failure to celebrate saw him receive criticism from fans and media.
He moved on from that blip and guided Madrid to the La Liga title, dislodging Barcelona from the top spot after three seasons.
However, come the start of the of 2012/2013 season, Ronaldo would once again hit the back of Spanish papers for all the wrong reasons after finishing third in the UEFA Best Player in Europe award to Barcelona duo Andres Iniesta (1st) and Messi (2nd).
He returned from another trip to Switzerland and scored in the league victory over Granada but would once again receive bad criticism for failing to celebrate what were his 149th and 150th goals for Los Blancos.
In a post match press conference he claimed that he was unhappy and that a 'professional issue' had made him discontent with life in Spain.
One being the lack of support shown as he aimed to win individual awards and two being a new contract that would see him gain FULL image rights, a contract he had been promised for some-time but never received.
He returned to action once again but an unhappy looking Ronaldo that coincided with Madrid's poor form has seen things change dramatically at the club.
Only three goals in his last six league outings, not bad for an average player, but poor for Ronaldo, mixed with his unhappiness over a new contract has seen him linked with a return to Manchester United.
The two meet in the next round of the Champions League with Ronaldo set to return to Manchester for the first time since he swapped England for Spain.
However, individual defeat to Messi or Iniesta on Monday night could ultimately see him walking out in-front of the Old Trafford crowd on a more regular basis next season.
image: © Paolo Camera