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Portugal's Paulo Bento not only backed his star forward for the prize but excluded Franck Ribery and Lionel Messi from his top three

The voting of the world's leading international coaches was crucial in swinging the closest-ever Ballon d'Or race in favour of Cristiano Ronaldo.

For years to come questions will be raised over Fifa's decision to extend the voting deadline to allow his performances against Sweden in the World Cup play-off last November to be taken into account.

For these 172 coaches, whose Ballon d'Or votes were counted alongside their captains and journalists, international football really matters so they would have appreciated the significance of Ronaldo's hat-trick in the second leg.

Ultimately, more coaches opted for the Real Madrid forward as their first choice than either of his two main rivals at the end of a highly political selection process. In total, 53 voted for Ronaldo opposed to 39 each for Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery.

Brazil's Luiz Felipe Scolari was admirably neutral overlooking Brazilians in favour of Ronaldo, Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while England's Roy Hodgson chose Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Robin van Persie.

But others were far less reticent in backing players from their own countries. France's Didier Deschamps made Ribery his No1 selection ahead of Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic and Argentina's Alejandro Sabella picked Messi, Ribery and Ronaldo in that order. But was Paulo Bento of Portugal playing it tactical by choosing Radamel Falcao and Arjen Robben behind Ronaldo? 

Belgium's Marc Wilmots left out all three leading contenders opting for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Eden Hazard.

There were also some highly patriotic No1 picks including Gareth Bale for Wales' Chris Coleman, Lewandowski for Poland's Adam Nawalka and Andrea Pirlo for Italy's Cesare Prandelli.


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