FIFA has announced the contenders for this year’s Ballon d’Or, with few surprises among the nominees.

As usual, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the favourites to life the prestigious award, though not one Englishman has made the shortlist.

Top 10 Contenders:

Gareth Bale – Confusion remains over whether he became the world’s most expensive footballer in 2013 after he swapped North London for Madrid in the summer. Bale was a shining light in a Spurs side that narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification, and despite recurring ankle trouble, the Welsh wizard now looks to have settled at Bernabeu after another top drawer performance against Juventus in the Champions League. Nonetheless, he would perhaps be a surprise winner as he is yet to firmly establish himself at the top table. 

Mesut Özil – Since the playmaker’s move to Arsenal, he has had a phenomenal impact on the Premier League. It seems unbelievable that Real Madrid didn’t keep Özil, even if the sale was necessary to balance the books after the Bale deal. Affectionately named ‘Nemo’ by German fans, he has led Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table and has ignited a new brand of flowing football at the Emirates.

Lionel Messi – Unsurprisingly, the little Argentinean leads the way once again having enjoyed yet another glittering season with Barcelona. Although Messi is currently enduring a goal drought, he overcame a number of injury setbacks to net an incredible 60 goals over the course of the 2012-2013 season, and looks a certainty to be named in the top three shortlist.

Cristiano Ronaldo – FIFA boss Sepp Blatter joked to the Oxford Union that the main difference between Ronaldo and Messi was the Portuguese’s hairdresser bills. Ronaldo was less than amused, but Blatter spoke some truth in that there really is precious little between La Liga’s top dogs. In terms of consistency, however, Ronaldo just has the edge this year.

Zlatan Ibrahimović – The Swede has often been underrated in past years, but this time around looks to be a serious contender. Ibrahimović has played a key role in Paris St Germain’s meteoric rise, notching up an impressive 35 goals in 44 games since his arrival in France.

Luis Suarez – Suarez is surely far too controversial for FIFA to put their neck on the block for, but the Liverpool hit man has forged an exceptional ‘SAS’ partnership with Daniel Sturridge. Despite his unquestionable talent, Suarez has simply missed too many games through suspension, most recently for the notorious biting incident involving Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Robin van Persie – For all Manchester United’s current perils, RVP has his some outstanding strikes this year. Van Persie won the Golden Boot for his contribution to Manchester United’s historic 2012-2013 season, including a man of the match performance in the game against Aston Villa that sealed the Red Devils’ 20th title.

Radamel Falcao – Having spent the best part of the year with Atletico Madrid, a move to England never materialised in spite of huge interest from the Premier League’s top clubs. That does not seem to have held him back, though, as the Colombian secured a multi-million pound deal with AS Monaco. Falcao has gone on to make quite an impact in the principality with some remarkable strikes, including a clever chip against Lyon.

Arjen Robben – Robben was instrumental in leading Bayern Munich to Champions League glory, hitting the winner in their Wembley final against Borussia Dortmund. With increased attention on the Bundesliga this year, Robben has also grabbed his fair share of headlines with a series of stunning performances.

Andrés Iniesta – No Barcelona midfield would be complete without Iniesta, who has also been a lynchpin in Spain’s World Cup qualification campaign. The ever reliable midfielder has created a near-unbreakable central midfield alongside Xabi, who also found himself among the nominees.

Tip: Ronaldo has only raised his game since Bale’s arrival and has even outshone Messi. The Portuguese superstar looks the most likely to land the 2013 Ballon D’or after another fantastic year that saw him commit his long term-future to Los Blancos.

Full list of nominees:
Gareth Bale (Wales), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Müller (Germany), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Özil (Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Franck Ribéry (France), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Luis Suárez (Uruguay), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Yaya Touré (Côte d’Ivoire), Robin Van Persie (Netherlands), Xavi (Spain)

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