Lionel Messi has recently been named on the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or. The trophy is presented to the best Player of the Year as voted for by fellow teammates, coaches and journalists around the world.
Last January, Messi became the first player to win the accolade four times, and the fact they were consecutive highlights the Argentinian's recent footballing dominance. This year however, there is a lot more competition, and due to Barcelona's European demise last season, losing 7-0 over two games to Bayern Munich, will we finally be seeing a new champion?
Let’s take a look at some of the contenders who could claim top prize this year:
Cristiano Ronaldo – The Portuguese superstar will be hoping to win his second Ballon d’or, the first coming after his sensational season at Manchester United in 2008. With 144 goals in 123 games for Real Madrid in the league, you could argue the forward has been unlucky to live in the era of Lionel Messi. Cristiano has had another brilliant year for both club and country, and despite not winning a trophy, will be a genuine contender for this year’s prize.
Andres Iniesta – At 29, Iniesta has already enjoyed an illustrious career, winning every single trophy available to a European footballer, including the world cup, and is an ever present in Barcelona’s wonderful team. The little Spaniard has done it all – except win this prestigious award. By his exceptionally high standards, 2013 hasn’t been a remarkable year for Iniesta, but you can bet he’ll still be in and around the top five this year.
Frank Ribery – One of six Bayern Munich players on this year’s shortlist. Ribery was a standout performer in Bayern’s treble winning season but can he really be considered next to the great Argentinian?
Philipp Lahm – Germany and Bayern Munich’s captain has had a remarkable year of football, making his 100th appearance for his national team, helping his side to three trophies and switching positions from defence to midfield, whilst maintaining a consistent standard of football. If he wasn’t a defender he would surely be one of the favourites, but a player in his position hasn’t won the Ballon d’or since 1996. History suggests Lahm hasn’t got a chance, but the statistics say otherwise.
Luis Suarez – The enigmatic forward is never far from the front pages, with his actions on and off the field attracting much criticism in recent years. However, the Uruguayan has had a fantastic year of football for his country and for Liverpool, and has season already scored five goals despite a 10 game ban. Unfortunately, due to his misdemeanours, Suarez has absolutely no chance of winning the award. Other than Liverpool and Uruguay, I would be shocked to see other teams’ players voting for him, especially if they’ve played against him and his win at all costs attitude. No one is denying his talent, but it is often overlooked because of his behaviour.
Manuel Neuer – No goalkeeper has ever won the famous trophy, and that isn’t going to change now. It was surprising to see the German on the shortlist but unfortunately that is as far he will go.
Thiago Silva – Generally seen as one the finest defenders around, Silva’s switch to high flying PSG has only enhanced his reputation. He helped his team to win the French league last season but many are still surprised to see the Brazilian on this list.
The Ballon d’Or was created in 1956, and is widely considered to be the greatest individual award a footballer can receive. Lionel Messi is on the brink of even more greatness, but a few players might have something to say about that.
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