Either Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Manuel Neuer will be crowned the best player of 2014 tonight and awarded the coveted FIFA Ballon d’Or trophy in an awards ceremony in Zurich tonight.
Ronaldo will be looking to emulate the likes of Johan Cruyff, Kevin Keegan, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Marco van Basten by securing himself a second title in succession.
Manuel Neuer will be hoping the judges are swayed by his World Cup win in Brazil, so that he can become just the second victorious goalkeeper in the history of the award.
World Cup winners
Six previous Ballon d’Or winners won World Cups in their year as ‘the best’, including Bobby Charlton, Paolo Rossi, Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Fabio Cannavaro in 1966, 1982, 1990, 1998, 2002 and 2006 respectively.
But the precedent has been set against him in terms of his playing position, with fellow shot stopper Lev Yashin the last goalkeeper to win the award 52 years ago.
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In a bit of a mess
Lionel Messi, despite having won the award more times than anyone else with four victories, is the outside contender this time round after winning no trophies in the calendar year of 2014.
Very few previous winners of the award have done so in years where they have tasted no silverware. And with Messi’s scoring feats bested by Cristiano and his World Cup credentials topped by Neuer, there are long odds on him sealing a record-breaking fifth win.
The last Englishman to get their hands on the trophy was Michael Owen in 2001 and Kevin Keegan and Bobby Charlton also enjoyed victories in the 70s and 60s respectively.
Billy Wright, Bobby Moore, Gary Lineker, David Beckham and Frank Lampard all just missed out as runners up, in 1957, 1970, 1986, 1999 and 2005 respectively.
And plenty of British clubs have boasted winners too, with Manchester United’s Denis Law (Scotland) and George Best (Northern Ireland) experiencing victory in the 1960s – and Cristiano Ronaldo was the last Red Devil to earn glory after he won the 2008 version.
Club by club
Barcelona are the most successful club in the awards history with Lionel Messi's impressive haul seeing them boast a winner on 10 occasions - but Johan Cruyff, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo all adding to the tally.
Juventus and AC Milan have a long-standing history of success in the award too with the likes of Paolo Rossi, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, Kaka and George Weah all helping the Italian clubs to eight wins each.
Real Madrid can level the Serie A sides total if Cristiano Ronaldo wins his third title with Alfredo Di Stefano, Luis Figo and Fabio Cannavaro putting Los Blancos on the board in the past.
Full list of winners
* indicates World Cup winner
1956 Stanley Matthews (England / Blackpool)
1957 Alfredo Di Stefano (Spain / Real Madrid)
1958 Raymond Kopa (France / Real Madrid)
1959 Alfredo Di Stefano (Spain / Real Madrid)
1960 Luis Suarez (Spain / Barcelona)
1961 Omar Sivori (Italy / Juventus)
1962 Josef Masopust (Czech Republic / Dukla Prague)
1963 Lev Yashin (Russia / Dynamo Moscow)
1964 Denis Law (Scotland / Manchester United)
1965 Eusebio (Portugal / Benfica)
1966 Bobby Charlton (England / Manchester United)*
1967 Florian Albert (Hungary / Ferencvaros)
1968 George Best (Northern Ireland / Manchester United)
1969 Gianni Rivera (Italy / AC Milan)
1970 Gerd Muller (Germany / Bayern Munich)
1971 Johan Cruyff (Netherlands / Ajax)
1972 Franz Beckenbauer (Germany / Bayern Munich)
1973 Johan Cruyff (Netherlands / Barcelona)
1974 Johan Cruyff (Netherlands / Barcelona)
1975 Oleg Blokhin (Russia / Dynamo Kiev)
1976 Franz Beckenbauer (Germany / Bayern Munich)
1977 Allan Simonsen (Denmark / Borussia Monchengladbach)
1978 Kevin Keegan (England / Hamburg)
1979 Kevin Keegan (England / Hamburg)
1980 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Germany / Bayern Munich)
1981 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Germany / Bayern Munich)
1982 Paolo Rossi (Italy / Juventus)*
1983 Michel Platini (France / Juventus)
1984 Michel Platini (France / Juventus)
1985 Michel Platini (France / Juventus)
1986 Igor Belanov (Russia / Dynamo Kiev)
1987 Ruud Gullit (Netherlands / AC Milan)
1988 Marco van Basten (Netherlands / AC Milan)
1989 Marco van Basten (Netherlands / AC Milan)
1990 Lothar Matthaus (Germany / Inter Milan)*
1991 Jean-Pierre Papin (France / Marseille)
1992 Marco van Basten (Netherlands / AC Milan)
1993 Roberto Baggio (Italy / Juventus)
1994 Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria / Barcelona)
1995 George Weah (Liberia / AC Milan)
1996 Matthias Sammer (Germany / Inter Milan)
1997 Ronaldo (Brazil / Inter Milan)
1998 Zinedine Zidane (France / Juventus)*
1999 Rivaldo (Brazil / Barcelona)
2000 Luis Figo (Portugal / Real Madrid)
2001 Michael Owen (England / Liverpool)
2002 Ronaldo (Brazil / Real Madrid)*
2003 Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic / Juventus)
2004 Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine / AC Milan)
2005 Ronaldinho (Brazil / Barcelona)
2006 Fabio Cannavaro (Italy / Real Madrid)*
2007 Kaka (Brazil / AC Milan)
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal / Manchester United)
2009 Lionel Messi (Argentina / Barcelona)
2010 Lionel Messi (Argentina / Barcelona)
2011 Lionel Messi (Argentina / Barcelona)
2012 Lionel Messi (Argentina / Barcelona)
2013 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal / Real Madrid)
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