It’s approaching that time of year again when international managers and captains cast their votes for the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Cristiano Ronaldo, after winning both the Champions League with Real Madrid and the European Championships with Portugal, is currently the overwhelming favourite to win the prestigious individual accolade for the fourth time in his career.
The 31-year-old won UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award ahead of teammate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann last month - a clear sign that another Ballon d’Or is likely to end up in Ronaldo’s trophy cabinet in January.
Lionel Messi is expected to be his closest rival for the award, according to the bookmakers’ odds, followed by another Barcelona player: Luis Suarez.
However, Atletico head coach Diego Simeone doesn’t believe the award should go to Ronaldo, Messi or Suarez.
Simeone: Griezmann deserves the Ballon d'Or
The Argentine coach hopes that Griezmann will spring a surprise by landing his hands on football’s most coveted individual prize.
"For me, last year Griezmann was the best player in Europe, I have no doubt about what I say," Simeone is quoted as saying by ESPN. "He reached the finals of both the Champions League and Euro 2016, scoring many goals, and scored many goals in La Liga too.
“The consistency he has makes him stronger.
“I hope he is up there for the Ballon d'Or, as he is in great form, and will get even better if he continues like this."
Griezmann leading the race for the Pichichi
Simeone was speaking after Atleti’s emphatic 5-0 victory over Sporting Gijon on Saturday - a match in which Griezmann added another two goals to his tally.
The Frenchman, who was named as the best player at Euro 2016 and won the Golden Boot at the same tournament, now sits top of the leading goalscorer charts in Spain alongside Messi, Suarez and Real Betis forward Ruben Castro.
Griezmann lost both major finals in 2016
However, the fact Griezmann failed to impress in the finals of both the Champions League and Euro 2016 won’t be ignored by those casting votes for the Ballon d’Or.
While it’s true that Ronaldo also didn’t enjoy his best games in either match - he wasn’t fully fit for the Champions League final and was injured in the first half of the Euro 2016 final - the fact is he secured winners’ medals from both fixtures.
Who will finish as 1, 2 and 3 in the voting for the 2016 Ballon d’Or? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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