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There is something ever satisfying of being the height of your peers, a self-delineating expression of performing above and beyond the levels of everybody else. Soon, the sporting world will see one of the greatest examples of this, as it does annually every January, in the form of the FIFA Ballon D’or.
Rewinding approximately a month ago, a 23-man shortlist was compiled by the FIFA Football Committee and a supporting group of experts from Football France, announced to the world on October 29th. Earmarking those who the deciding powers had concluded were each, individually worthy of competing for the accolade of the FIFA Ballon D’or; Europe’s finest football player.
Common knowledge to football fans globally, the previous four years have been dominated by a certain 5 foot 6 Argentinian playmaker by the name of Lionel Messi, considered by most to perhaps be the greatest player to ever have graced the game. Amidst this, the ever imposing debate that divides a vast majority of football fans has been raging on; the unanswerable conundrum of the Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo saga. Both players are evidently at the pinnacle of their careers right now, making their performances for their respective clubs a joy to behold. Nevertheless, the last four Ballon D’or award ceremonies have each consistently seen Ronaldo stand within the shadow of Messi, always within touching distance yet seemingly destined to remain trailing.
2013 however could finally be the year to see this all change. Unlike previous years, a plethora of factors have come into play meaning next January’s announcement could become one of the most eagerly anticipated Ballon D’or revealings of modern times. With the mesmerising form of Cristiano Ronaldo and his goal-drenched year of 62 in all competitions for both club and country, coupled with the untimely injury of Messi, cruelly side-lining him for the duration of the Christmas period, statistics point heavily towards the Portuguese winger claiming the plaudits.
Stats and figures cannot speak alone for those players in the revered Ballon D’or shortlist however, as the casting vote is determined by a mixed array of highly regarded sports journalists along with national team mangers and captains. It is down to these individuals to collectively decide whether the remarkable calendar year of Cristiano Ronaldo rightly merits the conquering of his closest rival and the subsequent collection of one of footballs most prestigious individual accolades.
Despite being the two main candidates and the odds on favourites of many, it would be blinkered to suggest that a possible upset of the 2013 FIFA Ballon D’or award could be on the cards however, especially with the shortlist containing a steadfast list of multiple other exquisite talents. In assessing the potential usurpers, arguably the most successful European team of the entire year, Bayern Munich, have a considerably large portion of players upon the Ballon D’or shortlist, six in total. From goalkeeper Manuel Neuer through to defender Philip Lahm and vital midfielders Bastian Schweinstiger and Franck Ribery, the German outfit quite impressively, essentially have the core of their team pitted in and amongst the final 23-man shortlist. This does however beg the question of whether these players have made the cut as a result of majestic team displays, with the emphasis being placed upon the whole as opposed to certain individuals.
Whilst many fans will heartily agree that football is first and foremost a team game, the Ballon D’or it can be said, is predominantly an award for individual seasons of brilliance, thus perhaps in a fashion, discrediting the strength of claim put out by the Bayern Munich contenders. On this notion however, players who oppositely have played out fantastic solo-roles this year, particularly players such as the globally recognised Zlatan Ibrahimovic, surely must be within strong contention. With a reputation that precedes him around the world as a collaborative result of his performances of pure brilliance coupled with outlandish social behaviours afore the media spotlight, 2013 has seen Ibrahimovic notch over 30 goals in his first season for new club Paris Saint Germain, becoming the first player to exceed the figure in top flight French football since Jean Pierre-Papin in 1990. Such exploits have put the Swedish hitman right amongst the dizzying heights of both, Ronaldo and Messi.
If one thing is for certain, the 2013 FIFA Ballon D’or is set up to be the closest one yet. There are many arguments for each of the 23 players upon the final shortlist, yet amongst the crowd it appears increasingly difficult to disagree that a certain Portugal national stands out. With a record breaking year under his belt and an obvious passion to seize an accolade that has continuously eluded him, could this finally be the year for Cristiano Ronaldo?