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Have you heard the one about Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar at the Ballon d’Or?

The 3 best footballers in the world, amongst the best the world has ever seen, speak Portuguese (Ronaldo, who is Portuguese, and Neymar, who is Brazilian) and Spanish (Messi is Argentinean), and they all play their football in Spain. The three stars all recently attended the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony to see which of them would be officially crowned this year’s top football player. The ceremony was conducted in English, but no interpreters were handy when most needed.

Between them, Ronaldo (3 times) and Messi (4 times) had cornered the market in the Ballon d’Or over the past 7 seasons, but Neymar has been starring at Barcelona, so all three were in the running.

The presentation was conducted in English, which neither Messi nor Neymar can speak. It seems a bit odd that there were no professionals on hand at the the most crucial moments to interpret the Ballon d’Or announcements, not to mention rather impolite of the organisers. Luckily Ronaldo, who spent 6 seasons with Manchester United in the Premier League, speaks both English and Spanish fluently, and he stepped in as interpreter to explain what was going on.  Despite the rivalry between their clubs – Ronaldo is at Real Madrid, and Messi and Neymar play for rivals Barcelona – the three players were happily chatting and sharing jokes in their common language, Spanish.

After the event – where Messi won his 5th Player of the Year Award, second-placed Ronaldo was asked how it had gone.  “Before the gala, on the stage, I was a translator for Neymar and Messi” he replied. “I told them they would have to pay me!”

Nice joke, but surprising that FIFA had not made provision for interpreters at the Ballon d’Or for their most celebrated guests!