Barcelona ace Xavi Hernandez believes his team mate Lionel Messi faces strong competition for the 2014 Ballon d'Or award due to the outstanding performances of Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.
Messi, who has won the past four editions of this prestigious award, has been struggling with several injury challenges this season.
And whilst the Argentine is injured, Ronaldo, Ribery, Robben and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been on top of their games as they create chances and score goals.
Hence, Xavi believes the 26-year-old could struggle to seal a fifth-straight prize based on the recent forms of these rival players.
"If we ask ourselves who the best player in the world is, then it has to be Messi, there's no question about that," he told Sport.
"But if we ask who has been the best player in 2013, then I admit there is more of a debate to be had. The fact Messi has won it four years in a row could end up damaging him when it comes to voting.
"I would always give it to Messi, because he is the player that wins matches by himself, although you have to recognise that Ribery and Cristiano have reached stratospheric heights in terms of goals and assists.
"Ribery won everything, and Cristiano has notched up an incredible amount of goals. If I were captain of Spain and had a vote, I'd vote for Messi first, then Ribery, and then Cristiano.
"[Arjen] Robben would also be worthy of my vote."
Messi is bound to return to action next year. But perhaps if he is rushed, as he always has, he might make a surprise return soon.
The winner of the 2013 Fifa Ballon d'Or will be announced on January 13.
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