Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday backed Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo for this year's hotly contested Ballon d'Or award for the world's best footballer.
The prime minister, a Real Madrid supporter, said the 28-year-old Portuguese international deserved the prize although he saved words of praise for Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and for Bayern Munich's French international Franck Ribery.
"I am a Real Madrid fan, I have always been a Madrid fan. If I had to vote I would vote for Ronaldo," the Spanish leader said in an interview with public radio.
Ronaldo is emerging as the favourite to pick up this year's Ballon d'Or for the world's best player over four-time winner Messi.
He scored his fifth hat-trick of the season on Tuesday as Portugal beat Sweden to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup finals to take his tally to 13 goals in his last six games for club and country.
"He scored three goals in Sweden. And I think he is in impressive form. He is a player who gives everything, who makes an all-out effort. Yes, I would vote for him," Rajoy said.
The Portuguese's chances seemed to rise even further when FIFA announced this week a two-week extension to the voting deadline until November 29, citing a weak turnout, and allowing participants to change ballots already cast.
Catalan sports newspapers, which traditionally back Barcelona, cried foul over the FIFA decision, which comes as Ronaldo hits top form and Messi is sidelined for up to eight weeks with a torn hamstring muscle.
Spain's prime minister also lauded Ronaldo's rivals for the prize.
"Obviously Messi also had a great season," he said. "And Ribery won everything, right? Because they won the Champions League, and the European Super Cup and the German league."