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Being so likable presumably made it easy to vote for Messi. The 25-year-old is always a joy to watch. He is invariably humble and polite in interviews, never missing an opportunity to thank his teammates.

Portugal’s Ronaldo, in comparison, is a tiresome peacock. The 27-year-old’s on-pitch preening, self-importance and histrionics can overshadow all the hard work and dedication he pours into his game. Ballon d’Or organizers ask voters to weigh players’ “overall behavior on and off the pitch” in making their choice. Ronaldo admits that his character _ “I’m too serious,” he says _ isn’t to everyone’s liking. Still, his personality shouldn’t stop him from being selected ahead of Messi if his football warrants it.

In 2012, it did.

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester