Who can stop Messi winning the 2013 Ballon d'Or?
Lionel Messi set to be challenged by likes of Cristiano Ronaldo & Robin van Persie
Lionel Messi strolled to an expected Ballon d'Or triumph on Monday evening - the fourth consecutive occasion he has won the orb, to reinforce his position as arguably the greatest player of all time.
Such has Messi's dominance been over the past few seasons, the Barcelona superstar has already been installed as the evens favourite to emerge victorious once again in 2013.
But who will challenge Messi's supremacy this year? Or is their any player capable of bettering the achievements of player who scored an unprecedented amount of goals in 2012?
GMF looks the players expected to provide Messi with some competition in pursuit of yet another record…
Odds to win the 2013 Ballon d'Or: 11/4
Cristiano Ronaldo was the last player to win the Ballon d'Or before Lionel Messi's reign of dominance, while he has finished in second place behind the Barcelona legend in three of the past four seasons.
Take Messi out of the equation, and Ronaldo would surely have streaked to the 2012 Ballon d'Or having found the net 60 times in all competitions for Real Madrid last season.
The Portugal captain will pose the biggest threat to Messi's title this year, although lack of success for Real Madrid - who trail Barcelona by 16 points in La Liga - may work against Ronaldo.
Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta has featured prominently in the Ballon d'Or during Lionel Messi's unprecedented spell of success; finishing second in 2010 and third in 2012.
The Spain forward was named the Best Player in Europe for his exploits last year and, at this early stage of 2013, is listed as the third favourite to claim the Ballon d'Or this year.
Iniesta, a popular unassuming charter, has plenty of supporters in his profession so is likely to be in the mix for next year's addition, although a lack of goals compared to other contenders will always be a problem.
Radamel Falcao was the only player outside of Barcelona or Real Madrid to feature in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI of 2012, and ended last year with 44 goals in 47 games.
The Atletico Madrid hitman has the credentials to challenge Lionel Messi, but a transfer away from Atletico Madrid will surely enhance his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or.
Falcao may have received only eight 'first choice' votes in 2012's competition - compared to 303 for Messi - but his profile will inevitably rise as this year progresses.
Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie enjoyed one of the finest goalscoring years in Premier League history in 2012 but, although he claimed the PFA Player of the Season award, had little international recognition to show for his exploits.
The Manchester United striker was the recipient of just three 'first choice' Ballon d'Or votes, while Van Persie also missed out on a place in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
But, with his goals looking likely to lead Manchester United to the Premier League title, Van Persie is a very enticing 22/1 to be the first English-based player to win the Ballon d'Or since it was rebranded in 2010.
Xavi finished in third place for three consecutive years - 2009, 2010 and 2011 - and, although the Barcelona maestro missed out on the top places in 2012, will continue to be ranked among the favourites this year.
The veteran midfielder received more 'first choice' votes than Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie last year and will likely benefit from a successful season for Barcelona.
Xavi recently committed his future to Barcelona, and winning the Ballon d'Or would be recognition for a glittering career for the three-time Champions League winner.
With 20 goals in only 22 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain during the summer transfer window, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on course to record the most potent season of his career.
A player in the French league hasn't so much as feature in the Ballon D'or top three since Jean-Pierre Papin triumphed in 1991 but, with Ibrahimovic's form and profile, that could quite easily change in 2013.
The Sweden international continues to impress in a PSG shirt and could win votes for personality alone - something that perhaps can't be said about Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar certainly has the attributes to be a Ballon d'Or winner in the future, although may need to move to Europe before he can compete with Lionel Messi for the award.
The 20-year-old Brazil international continues to perform to distinction in his homeland for Santos, but a switch to high-profile league will launch him into the stratosphere.
2013 may come a bit too soon for Neymar in terms of the Ballon d'Or, but 2014 could be his year should Brazil claim a sixth World Cup - but this time on home soil.
Best of the rest…
Wayne Rooney - 40/1
Cesc Fabregas - 66/1
Gareth Bale - 80/1
Yaya Toure - 125/1