Cristiano Ronaldo believes Liverpool sensation Mohamed Salah is a genuine contender to break his and Lionel Messi’s decade-long dominance of the Ballon d’Or.
Salah enjoyed a stunning debut season at Anfield, scooping the Premier League Golden Boot en route to netting 44 goals in all competitions.
His sparkling form underpinned the Reds’ surge to a surprise Champions League final appearance against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, but the fairytale ended in tears as a shoulder injury forced him out in the early stages of the 3-1 defeat in Kiev.
Ronaldo, who has shared five Ballons d’Or apiece with Messi since 2008, hopes the Egypt international will be fit to prove his class at the World Cup.
“Salah has been one of the revelations of the year,” Ronaldo told reporters.
“I hope his injury in the final in Kiev doesn’t keep him out.
“Many people talk about the battle for the Ballon d’Or between between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi but there are other players who have a chance to enter the race. Salah is certainly one of them.”
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With a fifth Champions League crown secured, Ronaldo has set his sights on leading Portugal to more silverware in what will be his fourth World Cup.
The 33-year-old admits a tough Group B opener against Spain on June 15 is not ideal, but he remains confident the European champions will reach the knockout rounds.
“A defeat on the first day puts you in a bad way for the rest of the tournament so it’s important to start well,” he said. “But I believe both Spain and Portugal will reach the next round.
“To win the World Cup would be a dream for Portugal but to do it we have to play the same way we did in Euro 2016, as a team and all together.”