Stoppage Time: Ronaldo is a bridesmaid once again

Over the past four years, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo has become very familiar with the phrase "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride."

The Portuguese superstar is undoubtedly one of the best players of his generation, yet for the fourth successive year, Ronaldo has been in attendance as the name of Lionel Messi has been called to receive the FIFA Ballon d'Or, given annually to the world's best player.

For four straight years, Ronaldo has had to grit his teeth and politely applaud while Messi receives yet another accolade which Ronaldo feels should rightfully be his.

"People either love me or hate me," Ronaldo said ahead of Monday's announcement. "Not even God is capable of pleasing everyone. This is part of my journey, part of my personality. I will try to make it so that the majority of people like me."

What Ronaldo is apparently missing is that the FIFA Ballon d'Or (formerly known as the FIFA World Player of the Year) is not a popularity contest, but rather a recognition of achievement on the playing field.

And in 2012, it was hard to argue that Messi once again separated himself from the pack, bagging a record 91 goals in the calendar year to eclipse the mark of 85 set by Bayern Munich and Germany legend Gerd Muller 40 years ago.

Yet for all the individual brilliance of Messi in 2012, it was not a banner year for his Barcelona team as the club was overtaken in La Liga by Ronaldo's Real Madrid, while Barca was bounced from the Champions League in the semifinal round by Chelsea.

Ronaldo scored 46 goals to lead his team to the league title, and had the opportunity to add the Champions League crown to his resume, which would have been a major boost to his claim as world's best player.

However, with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich headed to penalty kicks after a 3-3 aggregate score in their semifinal meeting, Ronaldo failed to convert Real's first attempt and Bayern defeated the Spanish side, 3-1, in the shootout.

Had Real advance to the final, the club would have been a big favorite over a suspension-riddled Chelsea side, but that was only the first big opportunity missed.

The second came this past summer at Euro 2012 with Portugal.

Messi had no major competitions this past year with Argentina, so leading Portugal to glory at the European Championship would have been a major feather in the cap of Ronaldo, who was serving as captain of the team.

But after scoring three goals to help Portugal reach the semifinals against Spain, Ronaldo's team once again fell a little short, and once again it was decided by penalty kicks.

Only this time Ronaldo took no part in the 4-2 shootout defeat as he was presumably the fifth player on Portugal's list, which begs the question as to why he wasn't moved up further.

Ronaldo has been to the top of the mountain before when he led Manchester United to both the Premiership title and Champions League crown in 2008 while being named the FIFA World Player of the Year.

But since that time, Messi has been the driving force behind a historic run of success for Barcelona and has put up mind-boggling numbers which stand out just a little more than the impressive displays of Ronaldo.

Off the field, Messi has exhibited nothing but a humble public demeanor, which is in stark contrast to the ultra-confident almost defiant nature of his Portuguese counterpart, who apparently views Messi's attitude as a sign of weakness.

"Too much humility is a defect," said Ronaldo in an apparent shot at Messi. "This is how I am."

No Cristiano, Messi's humility is actually refreshing in an age of me-first athletes, while your petulance is yet another example of an all-too-familiar trend.

And Messi already has a big edge in the running for the 2013 award with Barcelona holding an almost insurmountable lead in La Liga, while Real Madrid has the difficult task of facing Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16.

An early exit at the hands of United and a distant second-place finish in the league will hardly help Ronaldo's bid as he attempts to wrestle the title of world's best player away from Messi.

In 2012, Ronaldo came up just a little short when it mattered most.

Sadly for him, it is a theme that has become very familiar.