For seven years now Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have held a duopoly over the prestigious Ballon d'Or award.
Ronaldo has won the last two in succession and the duo once again make up two of the final three candidates to win the award for 2015.
The third candidate is Neymar, who makes his first appearance at this stage after a sensational year for Barcelona where he was a crucial part of their treble winning side. The mercurial Brazilian has finally taken his game to the level he was previously expected to reach and now he finds himself well and truly amongst the elite.
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Of course, Messi and Ronaldo are the favourites to win the prize announced on the January 11, but Neymar could just have an outside shot at the award.
Consistency throughout 2015 from Neymar
Neymar has been a crucial part of a team which has blown everyone away in 2015, as they secured a historic second treble while also forging the most feared attacking trident in world football.
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He also managed to score in every Champions League match after the round of 16, including three against Paris St-Germain, three against Bayern Munich and the third and final goal against Juventus in the final.
It was a sign of the consistency which he added to his game last season, the outlandish tricks and flicks were still on display but now he was also scoring crucial goals.
He finished the 2014/15 La Liga campaign with 22 goals and it looked as if Neymar had finally found his stride in Catalunya and would only get better.
What may harm his chances was his sub-standard Copa America performance which saw his suspended after an altercation against Colombia. The boy Brazil pinned their hopes on had let them down, but this should not mask his huge list of accomplishments from 2015.
2015/16 Neymar truly stepped up
Throughout this campaign so far what we have seen is a new and improved Neymar. In the absence of Messi through a knee injury, Neymar and Suarez stepped up, producing some outstanding performances and proving that they are capable of reaching the levels of last season without the Argentinian superstar.
20 goals and nine assists in all competitions so far this season from Neymar is an astonishing record and the Brazilian has helped Barca maintain the ridiculously high standards they set last season. A goal in the El Clasico along with nine man-of-the-match performances so far reinforce just how important he has become.
His goal against Villareal in a 3-0 win in early November was typical of the player he has made himself into. An outrageous piece of skill helped set him up but he was also able to deliver the goods when it came to actually scoring. No longer is he the YouTube player Joey Barton claimed he was.
However, Messi and Ronaldo have still been top draw
While there is lots of praise for how Neymar has improved, it cannot be disputed that both Messi and Ronaldo have had fantastic years in 2015 as well.
For both club and country, the duo have scored 103 goals so far, Messi with 50 and Ronaldo with 53 respectively (stats from messivsronaldo.net). The duo have scored goals for fun once again with Messi, in particular, netting some crucial goals, most notably his two fantastic strikes against Bayern Munich and Athletic Bilbao.
Ronaldo is often criticised for a number of his goals coming against inferior opposition and the large proportion of penalties but his numbers cannot be that heavily disputed. He is a goal scoring machine, but goals do not necessarily mean you have outperformed other players.
It seems to me that because of Barcelona's success as a club and the performances of the two players in question that the award will be decided between Neymar and Messi. For me, Ronaldo's sheer goal scoring volume should not earn him a third straight award, although he does deserve his place amongst the final three.
The Brazilian wonder kid does have an outside chance this year but we will see whether it comes to fruition in January.
Do you think Neymar has a chance of winning the Ballon d'Or? Comment below!
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