Football

Lionel Messi leading the race to win the Ballon d'Or

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It might barely just be halfway through the year, but the next big debate is starting to shape up really nicely. The top candidates for the 2015 Ballon d’Or, football’s finest individual prize, have isolated themselves at the top over the course of the season, and especially since the turn of the year.

With just a few months of the start of next season to go, these five players will be confident of their chances of making the podium in Zurich for the showpiece, or even outright winning the award.

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5) Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid

This season has been a real rollercoaster for Real Madrid’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who went from averaging almost two goals a game at the earlier stages of the season leading up to the Ballon d’Or 2014 ceremony, to facing a monumental dip in form at the turn of the year.

With 55 goals and 21 assists in 52 games as of this moment in the season it would seem outrageous to have the Portuguese as only a fifth favourite. However, the idea doesn’t seem too far-fetched considering that the Real Madrid ace is likely to end the season with nothing other than the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup titles, which were won on the merits of last season’s play.

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Furthermore, the majority of Ronaldo’s goals were scored prior to the start of the 2015 calendar year, and since the turn of the year. In 28 appearances in 2015, Ronaldo has so far managed 23 goals and nine assists, for a goal/game ratio of 0.82, which is amazing by any standard, but paltry relative to his pre-Ballon d’Or 2014 form.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, some Ballon d’Or votes have been known to be awarded to players that were good sportsmen, or at least better sportsmen relatively speaking, to the competition for the award. Ronaldo’s constant sulking and tantrums this season in that regard have not gone unnoticed by the world, and will not bode well for the three time Ballon d’Or winner in Zurich.

4) Carlos Tevez – Juventus

In the Serie A this season, one man has been head and shoulders above the rest, and that man is ‘El Apache’. The resurgence of the Old Lady to football royalty where it has always belonged owes a lot to this man.

His league leading 20 goals in the Serie A and team leading seven assists in the same competition were extremely vital to Juventus’ successful bid to claim their fourth successive league crown.

Juventus are currently seeking to become only the second Italian side in history to win the treble, and Tevez has been the key figure behind the campaign. With seven goals in the UEFA Champions League he helped guide Juventus to the final, where they will face FC Barcelona, the other European giant seeking a treble this season.

With a league crown safely in the bag and with Juventus firm favourites to lift the Copa Italia, and the possibility of winning the Champions League, Tevez will at least have some silverware to add to his case for a podium spot come December 2015 in Zurich.

Tevez is particularly aided by the fact that he will be participating in the Copa America this summer, a tournament in which Argentina are heavy favourites to be in the final, if not win the whole thing. And that can only be good for the Argentine.

3) Luis Suarez – Barcelona

Everything that Suarez has achieved this season has to be put into context. He was not able to play for FC Barcelona til November due to his biting ban, but ever since he hit the scene, he has been arguably the second best player in the world this season behind only Lionel Messi.

However, because of his ban he will not be participating in the Copa America, in which other rival candidates could win the trophy to enhance their Ballon d’Or chances, the Uruguayan has to settle for third spot on this list.
Despite having to gel with a new team mid-season, ‘El Pistolero’ has managed 24 goals and 17 assists in 36 games for Barcelona. That 21 of those goals have come in the year 2015 alone shows how deadly the Uruguayan has been since the turn of the year.

In 2015 Suarez (21) trails just Messi (30), Neymar (24), and Ronaldo (23) on goals scored in all competitions for club and country. However, his performances have been even more impressive than those mustered by Ronaldo and Neymar with his performance against PSG as something of a ‘chef d’oeuvre’. If 2015 is any indication to go by, then the world should not be surprised if Suarez matches Lionel Messi goal for goal in upcoming seasons.

2) Neymar – Barcelona

Neymar Junior, who would have been assured top dog privileges at virtually any other club in the world, made a brilliant career move by deciding to join FC Barcelona as Messi’s understudy.

A relationship that last season seemed suspect, has blossomed into an oasis of mind numbing football and understanding this season. With 38 goals and six assists in 42 appearances for Barcelona this season, Neymar is having the kind of season that is only statistically inferior to fellow strike partner Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo.

What is even more telling in that since the start of the year, Neymar, at 24, has one more goal than Ronaldo, and trails only Messi in that department.

While Neymar has been brilliant, much of his success this season has come from the willingness on Messi and Suarez to completely take him under their wing. The Messi to Neymar assist/goal combination has been the most prevalent this season, behind only Cesc/Costa, and this is not surprising given that Messi’s new signature move, the diagonal sickle chip over the defence, always seems to find either the Brazilian or Jordi Alba.

Barring a total disaster, Barcelona should seal La Liga next week, even though they could do so as soon as Sunday with a win against Atletico. This Barcelona team are also massive favorites to win the Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, and the Champions League final against Juventus and that would bode well for Neymar’s Ballon d’Or hopes

Throw in the fact that Brazil, alongside Argentina, are massive favourites to claim the Copa America this summer, and Neymar is in with an added advantage over Suarez who cannot participate.

1) Lionel Messi – Barcelona

Lionel Messi essentially won the Ballon d’Or on Wednesday after Madrid lost the UCL semifinal to Juventus. With Ronaldo’s hopes of any legitimate trophy this season being completely dashed, Messi essentially has no rival left that can threaten the level of consistency, trophies won and stats achieved over the course of the season and especially in 2015.

In 53 apps for Barcelona this season, Messi has scored 53 goals and provided a European high 27 assists this season. He trails Ronaldo (42) is La Liga by two goals and leads the race for the Champions League golden boot with (10) tied with Ronaldo, although he has a game left to distinguish himself.

Messi is the highest scoring (30) and assisting (18) player in Europe in 2015. Whoscored.com currently has Messi as the highest ranked player in La Liga, and Champions League this season, and the Argentine ace has collected the ESPN Player of the Month award for every month since the turn of the new year, except for January, when some resilient Newcastle fans made sure Remy Cabella won.

Messi’s season has been a stark contrast to Ronaldo’s. The Argentine ace had a ‘slow start’ to the season according to stat mongers who forget he was playing as an attacking midfielder. However after the Ballon d’Or heartbreak, and a change from midfield to the right wing, he has looked like the Messi of old, except better.

Over the course of that span, he has put in some masterful performances against elite teams in Europe such as Atletico, Manchester City, and more recently Bayern Munich. On top of that a treble of La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League look well within reach for Messi this season, who could crown all of that with a Copa America win in Chile.

Safe to say barring a disastrous start to the 15/16, ‘La Pulga’ will be a five time Ballon d’Or winner. Ridiculous!

Who do you think will win the Ballon d'Or? Let us know below!

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Topics:
Football
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
Luis Suarez
Carlos Tevez
Neymar
Barcelona

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