Barcelona midfielder Xavi says he would still vote for Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d'Or despite his recent injury woes.
The Argentinian superstar helped Barcelona reclaim their La Liga title last season and has 14 goals in as many games this time round, but missed his side's Champions League humiliation against Bayern Munich in May and faces eight weeks on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery are the favourites to scoop the prize, which has been won by Messi for the past four seasons, at the award ceremony in January.
Although he looks unlikely to make it five in a row, Xavi says he would still vote for him if he had the chance, and adds that he would put Ribery ahead of Ronaldo.
"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 Spanish newspaper AS.
"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 Ribèry and Cristiano have reached stratospheric heights in terms of goals and assists. Ribèry 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 Ribèry, and then Cristiano. Robben would also be worthy of my vote."
Barcelona currently sit top of La Liga, three points clear of 2nd-placed Atletico Madrid after 13 games, and are also top of their Champions League group, with new boss Gerardo Martino in the Nou Camp hot seat.
"We set the bar so high," Xavi said of Barcelona's season so far. "In the last few years our level was 10/10 now it's about 8 or 7.5.
"We are playing good football and enjoying ourselves out on the pitch, but not every minute, perhaps we are enjoying half the game or not suffering for 20 or 30 minutes because our opponents aren't putting pressure on us.
"That's what we have to improve. It seems as if there is alarm, but things are good for us at the moment. We've had extraordinary results, it's almost impossible to imrpove on, we are leaders in every area."
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