'Fantastic Ronaldo deserves fifth Ballon d'Or' - James backs former Real Madrid team-mate

Cristiano Ronaldo James Rodriguez Real Madrid
The Portuguese star is expected to be named the best player on the planet for 2017, with that recognition coming as no surprise to those who know him

Cristiano Ronaldo is a “fantastic player” and fully deserving of a fifth Ballon d’Or, says former Real Madrid team-mate James Rodriguez.

The Portuguese superstar is expected to be recognised as the best player on the planet once again at a star-studded ceremony in Paris on Thursday.

If he is successful, then the 32-year-old will draw level with eternal rival Lionel Messi on five wins apiece as the period of dominance by the Madrid and Barcelona icons continues.

James, who spent three seasons alongside Ronald in Spain before linking up with Bayern Munich over the summer, believes that there has been nobody more deserving of the prestigious individual award over the course of the last 12 months.

He told reporters: “It's deserved. Cristiano has had a great year and I'm happy for him.

“It'll be his fifth Ballon d'Or, and right now that says it all. He has improved over his whole career, which has turned him into a fantastic player.”

Ronaldo’s presence in Madrid was partly responsible for James struggling to nail down a regular starting berth, which ultimately led him to look elsewhere.

James Rodriguez Bayern Munich

The 26-year-old headed to Bayern on an initial two-year loan agreement and has started to find his form following a slow start to life in Germany.

The Colombia international believes he is improving all the time, stating after a 3-1 Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain: “Yes, I'm playing well at the moment, which is down to getting more minutes on the pitch.

“This means that things are coming off; when you play you can put your talents to the test, and everything is easier, particularly when you're playing alongside great players like the ones at Bayern. I'm enjoying myself and just want to help my team win.”

Despite seeing off PSG in their latest outing, Bayern could only finish as runners-up in their Champions League group.

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Real did likewise in theirs, which means that James will be denied a possible reunion with his former club in the last 16.

“I don't think there are any easy rivals left in the Champions League,” he added.

“It's tough whoever you play, particularly in the last 16 because you have to be on the top of your game. Having said that, going back to the Bernabuu would be special.”