We may only be halfway through 2013, but there are already some leading contenders for the 2013 Ballon d'Or.
Here are the top four candidates, at the moment, for football's most coveted individual prize.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo | Real Madrid
It was a very disappointing season for Real Madrid, who were only able to add the Spanish Super Cup to their trophy cabinet; however, their charismatic ace was once again at his individual best, notching up an amazing 55 goals in 55 games.
His 12 goals in the Champions League last season were instrumental to his club’s European campaign, and guaranteed him the tournament's golden boot award - a prize which has been claimed by his rival Lionel Messi for the past four consecutive seasons.
Despite his stellar performances, especially in the Champions League, the lack of any major trophy, combined with some phenomenal individual performances by other European players this time around, mean that Ronaldo could miss out on a podium spot come January.
3. Robert Lewandowski | Borussia Dortmund
Much like Ronaldo’s season, trophy wise, it was a disappointing season for Borussia Dortmund. Despite the lack of trophies, however, Dortmund was arguably Europe’s brightest and most breathtaking team, as they shocked everyone in Europe by making it to the Champions League finals with otherworldly performances against Malaga, and Real Madrid.
Lewandowski once again played a vital role in Dortmund’s campaign, as his 24 league goals helped them achieve runner-up spot in the league, while his 10 Champions League goals also helped them capture the runner-up spot, both times to Bayern Munich, Europe’s most dominant team of the season.
Lewandowski’s four goals against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final are sure to be on the back of everyone’s minds come January, and for that, he just might be able to pip the likes of Ronaldo, Bastin Schweinsteiger, and Andres Iniesta, to a podium spot.
2. Franck Ribéry | Bayern Munich
If the Ballon d’Or was to be awarded to the person who achieved the most in 2013, Franck Ribéry would without a hint of a doubt be that man.
Ribéry’s 11 goals and 22 assists in all competitions last season were a very important contribution to Bayern’s dominance in Europe, which was rewarded with a league title, a Champions League crown, the DFB-Pokal, and the DFL-Supercup.
According to a study conducted by CIES Football Observatory, Ribéry was the second best player in Europe, and led the top five European leagues in chance creation, and the ability to take on opponents.
While Ribéry undoubtedly shone this season, he may come short of lifting the Ballon d’Or in Zurich because Bayern Munich’s dominance in Europe owed more to the collectivism of the squad rather than the individual brilliance of any one player.
1. Lionel Messi | Barcelona
The flea was at his brilliant best once again last season, exploiting the extraterrestrial powers of his mercurial left leg to score goals, and shatter records left and right.
On an individual level, Messi was head and shoulders above every single player in Europe, and this was reflected in a CIES Football Observatory study, which had him as the best player in the top five leagues, as well as the most lethal shooter.
Messi contributed an amazing 46 goals in 32 games to Barcelona’s league title fight, winning a record third European golden shoe in the process, and completing an unprecedented stunning scoring circle on every other team in the league.
His 12 assists were 2nd highest in the league, just two shy of Andres Iniesta’s career best 14. With his eight goals in the Champions League, Messi twice saved Barcelona from early exits, first in the 16th finals at the hands of AC Milan, and later in the quarter finals against PSG.
Due injury, Messi was helpless as Barcelona got demolished in the UCL semi-finals by an aggregate score of 7-0.
Only the latter part of 2013 will truly determine who wins the Ballon D’or in January, but at the half way stage, it once again seems as if Messi is destined for a ridiculous fifth consecutive Ballon D’or.
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