Carlo Ancelotti has named three players who could potentially win the 2016 Ballon d’Or award if either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo fail to land their hands on the prestigious individual accolade for the first time since 2007.
The former Real Madrid coach, who will replace Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich this summer, hinted that Messi and Ronaldo are still the most likely candidates to win the next Ballon d’Or award and believes both will fight tooth and nail to secure it.
However, if for whatever reasons they fail, Ancelotti believes the award could be won by either Neymar, Luis Suarez or, bizarrely, James Rodriguez.
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"I think Ronaldo wants to win another [Ballon d'Or]," the Italian coach told Goal. "This is a good motivation for him. He will try, I think, to do his best to win again.
"I think it's the same with Messi. It's very difficult to say who is going to win the Ballon d'Or next [between] these two players.
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"Maybe it could be Neymar; he has fantastic skill. Could be James Rodriguez, could be Suarez.
"It's very difficult, they're at the top, they still continue to be at the top.
"I'm sure that Ronaldo... will fight to win [the Ballon d'Or] trophy again.
"Of course, he has the most difficult opponent, Messi, but I'm sure he will try to fight to win again."
Ronaldo's final opportunity to win another Ballon d'Or?
Considering he turns 32 next February, this season could potentially be Ronaldo’s final opportunity to win another Ballon d’Or.
The Portuguese superstar currently has three to his name, two short of Messi’s record-breaking five.
However, with Barcelona on course to finish the season with more silverware - the Catalan giants are through to the Champions League quarter-finals, the Copa del Rey final, and lead La Liga by nine points with eight matches remaining - combined with the fact Argentina have an opportunity to win the Copa America this summer, Messi appears to be in a better position than Ronaldo to add to his Ballon d’Or collection.
Ronaldo could find himself out of top three
If Barcelona win another treble, Ronaldo may find himself outside the top three altogether.
Both Neymar and Suarez have played starring roles for Luis Enrique’s side this season and, like Messi, will be aiming to help their respective national teams win at the Copa America this summer.
James is not going to win it...
Still, Ronaldo should receive more votes than his Real Madrid teammate, James.
The Colombia international has flattered to deceive this season and could, according to Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague, be sold this summer.
“Real Madrid would love to sell those two!” Balague said, referring to James and Isco. “Again both agents, Jorge Mendes in the case of James, are looking for teams in England. Isco would like to go to England as well.
“I feel Isco hasn’t got the quality to be a regular at Real Madrid and James doesn’t seem to have the mentality to be at the elite because he moans a lot if he doesn’t play and if he’s not treated the way he wants to be treated. Get on with it man!”.
Who will win the 2016 Ballon d’Or award? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.