Former winners of the Ballon d’Or have spoken – Lionel Messi should beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the crown in 2013.
The Barcelona superstar stands on the cusp of history, having lifted the prestigious award on three consecutive occasions between 2009 and 2012 – the first of which before the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year were combined together to form the FIFA Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, scooped the award in 2008, and is hoping his exploits with Real Madrid last season will lead to individual recognition in January.
However, previous winners of the prestigious Ballon d’Or – which was originally commissioned by France Football in 1956 as an award for the best player in Europe – have been quizzed on who they think should lift the trophy, and the Argentine playmaker scooped over 50% of the votes from 13 past champions.
Kevin Keegan, who lifted the award twice in 1978 and 1979, was one of the people to opt for Messi, with Andriy Shevchenko, Matthias Sammer, Marco Van Basten, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Luis Suarez and Raymond Kopa doing the same.
Unsurprisingly, Brazilian playmaker and Madrid star Kaka voted for his teammate Ronaldo, as did former AC Milan midfielder Gianni Rivera and German legend Franz Beckenbauer.
Three of the ex-winners who were asked – Ruud Gullit, Alfredo Di Steffano and Luis Figo – simply couldn’t split the pair when asked by French Football, suggesting that it’s an extremely close contest this year.
Whilst Messi is on course to break the individual scoring record in a calendar year, it was Ronaldo who led his team to domestic glory in Spain. Both players suffered Champions League defeat in the semi-finals of the competition.
Bookmakers have Messi as the clear favourite as well, although the award has been known to spring a few surprises in the past, with Pavel Nedved, Michael Owen and George Weah three of the unlikely winners over the past two decades.
There are currently 23 players on the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, which will be presented during a lavish ceremony in Zurich in 2013. That's set to be reduced to three players tomorrow, with Ronaldo and Messi certain to be amongst the final trio for the fifth consecutive year.
Let us know who you think should win the FIFA Ballon d'Or below, and be sure to make your case for whichever player you prefer!