The contenders for this year's Ballon d'Or have been announced and, as expected, Cristiano Ronaldo is leading the race to land this coveted prize.
Ronaldo is the holder of the most esteemed individual award in football, and is arguably in an even stronger position to win the trophy than he was this time a year ago.
It is not a one horse race, however, and Ronaldo is just one of a small group of players with a genuine chance of emerging victorious...
The 2013 winner is the clear favourite to win a third Ballon d'Or, and for good reason. Ronaldo has had another exceptional year for Real Madrid seemingly scoring every time he plays.
He contributed in a massive way in helping Madrid win their 10th European title including scoring a penalty in extra time off the final in Lisbon. He also won the Copa del Rey with Madrid and, although he missed out on the final due to injury, scored plenty of goals in the earlier rounds.
Ronaldo has started this season in sensational style and there is no sign of him slowing down. The only thing that could see Ronaldo miss out on the 2014 award is that he had a disappointing World Cup for Portugal, but not even that should really stand in his way of claiming the award for a second successive year.
The Ballon d'Or would cap off an excellent year for Lahm who has had another super season for Bayern Munich. Obviously the highlight of the year for Lahm was captaining Germany to World Cup final glory in Brazil during the summer, while he also won a domestic double.
Lahm appears to get better with age and has become an even bigger asset to Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola having reinvented himself as a holding midfielder, but can still play as a full back as he does for the national team.
He decided to retire from international football after the World Cup and this loss has been clear in recent Germany matches. Lahm doesn’t score the goals the likes of Messi and Ronaldo do so doesn’t make as many headlines, but he is a fantastic captain and a true professional and would deserve to win the Ballon d'Or.
What a year it’s been for Diego Costa. His goals helped Atletico Madrid win La Liga in May and also propelled them to the Champions League final.
Unfortunately for Costa, injury deprived him off making an impact in the biggest games as injury forced him off early in both the Champions League final and the title showdown with Barcelona.
Like Ronaldo, Costa flopped at the World Cup but also like Ronaldo he has come back stronger and had a great start to the new season. Costa earned a big money move to the Premier League with Chelsea and has been terrorising defences ever since.
Showing that he can score in both the Premier League and La Liga means Costa has true superstar credentials.
Thomas Muller never seems to get the recognition he deserves but would be truly worthy of winning the Ballon d'Or.
Muller has had a very similar year to that of team mate and fellow countrymen Philipp Lahm. He was part of the German side that won its fourth World Cup in Brazil and was in the Bayern Munich side that won the Bundesliga and the German cup.
Like Lahm doesn’t generate the headlines that other players do, yet he scores plenty of goals for club and country. Muller’s goals will remain crucial for Germany and Bayern for years to come, so if he doesn’t win the Ballon d'Or this year he will have plenty of opportunities in the future.
Angel Di Maria
He may not be the Argentina most people would expect to see on this list, but Angel Di Maria easily has out shone Lionel Messi this year.
Di Maria was man-of-the-match in the Champions league final and was also among the scorers as Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final. He was the leading assist maker in La Liga as well. Not bad going.
The midfielder had a good World Cup and scored a crucial goal for Argentina in the round of 16 against Switzerland. He unfortunately missed the final against Germany but then ripped the Germans apart in a friendly in September.
Di Maria earned a British record transfer to Manchester United and has, like Costa, been a star in the Premier League.
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