By ESPNSTAR.com staff
Ronaldo won the coveted "Golden Ball" gong three times during his career (1996, 1997, 2002), but he thinks Italy's Maldini should have held the title at least once.
"These individual prizes are, in a way, a form of rewarding the consistency of a given player but football isn't an individual sport, by any means. It's a team sport, in which the collective is very important," Ronaldo said on FIFA.com.
"I always made a point of sharing the credit for those awards with all my team-mates in the sides I was playing for. There's no doubt that, in that sense, there's a lot of injustice, because in any given year there'll be several players who've performed consistently and deserve the title.
"For example, I always found it very difficult when I came up against Paolo Maldini. He was the best defender I faced over the course of my career. He definitely deserved to win the award several times over, but sometimes the criteria don't work out perfectly.
"That's because he's a defender and the public like to see goals and great pieces of skill, while defenders are there to put a stop to those moves. But Maldini was always far too talented to be playing at the back anyway."
Perhaps if Maldini had played today instead of in Ronaldo's era, then things might have been different. This is because Ronaldo feels competition for the top individual prize in world football is not as tight as it used to be with Barcelona's Lionel Messi sweeping the award the in last three editions.
"I'd say that in my day the competition was much fiercer than it is today, without taking anything at all away from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who are the two players that'll be up there fighting it out to be the world's best over the next few years," he said.
"But in my day there was Zidane, Rivaldo won it one year, [Luis] Figo, me, later came Ronaldinho Gaucho."
He added: "The battle to be the best was very fierce among that generation of players. Back then, whoever won certainly deserved it."
"Zidane and I were quite dominant during those years, with him winning three times and me too. We experienced some spectacular years which were enjoyed by all those who love football."
FIFA will name the winner of the Ballon d'Or award for 2012 on 7 January 2013 at the Kongresshaus in Zurich.