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Top 5: 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or contenders (1)

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It's been seven years since a player other than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or award - but will 2014 finally be the year another player is crowned European football's best player?

It's clear that Ronaldo and Messi are in a league of their own and have been for some time now, but winning the World Cup counts for an awful lot in the voting for this prestigious individual award - and neither player managed to lift the trophy in Brazil.

Messi came agonisingly close, reaching the final of the showpiece tournament with Argentina. But it was Germany who triumphed thanks to Mario Gotze's injury-time winner.

Germany World Cup winners

As a result, a couple of Germany's World Cup winners will be in contention. The likes of Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller were all outstanding in Brazil and could become the first player since Kaka in 2007 to win the award instead of world football's two superstars.

But the World Cup is not the be all and end all. The eventually winner of the Ballon d'Or will needed to have performed consistently well all year - not just during the months of June and July.

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Champions League

Another competition that can help a player win the individual accolade is, of course, the Champions League.

Real Madrid eventually won the competition, thanks in no small part to Ronaldo's 17 goals along the way. But Gareth Bale also contributed, while Angel di Maria was sensational in the final against Atletico Madrid.

And on the subject of Atletico Madrid, surely a couple of Diego Simeone's standout performers will be in contention? Thibaut Courtois has been arguably the best goalkeeper in world football over the course of 2014, while Diego Costa's goals were instrumental in helping the club secure their first La Liga title since 1996.

Click on 'begin slideshow' to see our list of the top five contenders for the Ballon d'Or award - and don't forget to leave a comment in the box below. Name your top three - in order!

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Topics:
Manchester United
World Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
La Liga
Lionel Messi
Football

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