ROME (AP) — Nothing seems to motivate Cristiano Ronaldo more than the suggestion that other players are better than him.
That was evident when Ronaldo skipped the UEFA player of the year award ceremony in August when he learned that former Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric gained the honor.
Now, amid reports that he’s been left off the podium for the Ballon d’Or prize to be presented next month, teammates say Ronaldo trained harder than ever this week.
The training paid off, as Ronaldo scored the opening goal and helped set up the second as Juventus extended its unbeaten start in Serie A by beating promoted Spal 2-0 on Saturday.
Croatia international Modric and France teammates Kylian Mbappe Raphael Varane are reportedly the finalists for the Ballon d’Or — which would mean that panelists relied heavily on the World Cup, where France beat Croatia for the title.
Before transferring to Juventus, Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to its third straight Champions League title last season, and led the competition with 15 goals — five more than anyone else.
Ronaldo’s latest score gave him nine in Serie A, matching Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek for tops in the league.
Near the half-hour mark, Ronaldo beat everyone to redirect in a free kick from Miralem Pjanic.
In the 60th, Ronaldo’s pull back on a counterattack set up a shot for Douglas Costa, whose effort was swatted into the path of Mario Mandzukic, who scored from the rebound.