On January 13, the winner of the coveted 2013 Ballon d'Or title will be announced. Along with the trophy, they will also be given the tag of being the best player in world football - a special achievement for any footballer.

The competition has been narrowed down to just three candidates from the original 23-man list - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery - a trio who have each endured an exceptional year in 2013.

The Ballon d'Or started in 2010 when FIFA merged the World Player of the Year award
and France Football's Ballon d'Or award. In the first three years, the trophy has been won by Argentine Lionel Messi. 

The award is voted for by international captains and coaches alongside journalists. To be even shortlisted for such an award is a great honour for any footballer.

Messi's victories in the last two years have been commanding as in both instances he has attracted more than 40% of the votes cast.

His performances in 2013 have been no less prolific but his absence from the Barcelona side recently through injury, coupled with the outstanding performances by Ronaldo for both club and country, for me, has tipped the balance in the Portuguese and Real Madrid star's favour.

Ronaldo is not only the bookmakers favourite for the title but he will also have benefited from a change to the voting deadline which saw an extension to November 29.

The remaining voters were voting with the knowledge of Ronaldo scoring a superb hat-trick for Portugal against Sweden which fired his team to the World Cup in Brazil. It was also Ronaldo's fifth hat-trick of the current season which brought his total goals in the 2013-14 season to 32 from just 22 games played.

Whilst Messi has not been as prolific as Ronaldo this season, he has still performed very well. Injury has halted his 2013-14 season but he has still had time to break records.

He is now the sixth all-time record scorer in La Liga and has moved up to second - behind Raul - as the leading scorer in the Champions League. His hat-trick against Ajax was his fourth in the competition, a new record.

Ribery, the third player contesting the award, has had a fantastic 2013 also. He won the treble with club side Bayern Munich in the 2012-13 season and was an instrumental figure in this achievement.

At the beginning of this season, Ribery was voted as the UEFA Best Player in Europe, beating Messi and Ronaldo in the process. Perhaps this is a good omen for the French international.

This year's award looks to be the closest contested yet but there is no doubt that the eventual winner will fully deserve this accolade and I firmly believe that Ronaldo will finally triumph over his old adversary Lionel Messi.  

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Cristiano Ronaldo
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