For the past four years, Lionel Messi has taken home the player's trophy-of-all-trophies: The Ballon d'Or.
Not only does this show that Messi is earning the status of the greatest player of all time, it also means that many players are going to be nipping his heels for a shot at the trophy.
Entering the new season, there are loads of contenders popping up on the radar. Below I have listed three of them. Fortunately for Messi, none (aside from his existing compatriots and Cristiano Ronaldo) have been able to play alongside a former Ballon D'Or holder.
As a young star in the Barcelona youth, his major team play began when Ronaldhino and Thierry Henry ruled the Camp Nou. Being around this talent let Messi take on whatever role he pleased. The Spanish star was able to learn from the best in their juiciest form.
In December 2009, Messi was voted as the Ballon d'Or winner, making him 21 at the time of reception.
Competition may not be coming from the usual sources, given the status of Barcelona in the repeat-conundrum of being knocked out in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Xavi is now 33, and while he possesses the pass of the ultimate Spainard, the tiki-taka form of football is losing its luster to German football. The same can be said for the ever-formidable Andres Iniesta (although he is younger.)
So if not for one of his fellow Barcasquad members, who is to take the crown?
In everyone's mind, Ronaldo is the first choice. The winner in 2008, he tallied in at half of Messi's 41% in the 2012 selection and has scored 30 goals in 2013. It is unlikely that he will switch teams, and as such Real Madrid will continue to play into his style.
Also, Carlo Ancelotti may have a trick or two up his sleeve to boost his play into 6th gear. While the lightning fast Portugese has had his temper tantrums in the past, his time is near, and should Messi attain an injury, Ronaldo should win.
An astonishing 33 goals in 43 appearances for Bayern Munich gives Ribery an outside chance. He is clear with his movement, easy to understand for teammates, yet presents the unbeatable to his opponents. Stepovers and speed make him one of the most difficult players to defend.
And finally, if ego's the game, then Zlatan Ibrahmiovic is the man. He is a striker that sees as many cards as Filippo Inzaghi saw offsides.
However, he is a presence on the field that can not be covered. His massive size makes him one of the most indomitable players out there.
What this means for opposing teams is a tactical change or bringing on a substitute to stop aerial duels from falling to his feet. His 15 goals for club in 2013 show his consistency as a top-scorer, regardless of which club he's at, and he was named Ligue 1's player of the year for his performances last season.
If he can continue the form he has shown over the past two seasons with AC Milan and Paris-Saint Germain, it doesn't matter where he goes.
If these three players lose out to Barcelona's number 10, Messi will go down as the greatest. There is little more that one can do in such a short time on such a large stage.
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