Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is favourite to win a hat-trick of FIFA Ballon d’Or awards, making it three times on the bounce.
Messi won the inaugural award in 2010, and no other player has won it since, with only three other players ever getting to the final three in nominations. Both Messi’s Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and fierce rival Cristiano Ronaldo are receiving their second nomination each, whilst in 2010 and 2011 Xavi had completed the line-up of final nominees.
The dominance of Barcelona players in the shortlist has not gone unnoticed. Ronaldo’s Coach at Real Madrid Jose Mourinho has claimed that the award ceremony is a 'fix'.
The Special One doesn’t doubt Messi’s brilliance, but believes Ronaldo is easily the Argentine’s equal.
“If you are going to give out the Ballon d'Or because a player is the best, give it to Cristiano or Messi… but I ask: if the two are on the same level, is it normal that one wins four and the other one? It is not,” he declared.
Although Ronaldo has never won the award since it has been known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or, he did win the penultimate FIFA World Player of the Year award and Ballon d’Or titles, before both were taken from him in 2009 by one Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo is being uncharacteristically humble at the moment – speaking to the official Real Madrid website, he said: “For me it is an honour to be a candidate for the Ballon d’Or and for FIFA’s World XI, and I am very proud.
“They are two very special awards and I think that being amongst the candidates is primarily the result of the hard work and support of my team mates, both at Real Madrid and Portugal.
“I would like to congratulate my Coach, Jose Mourinho, for being picked as a candidate for the Coach of the Year, after winning the league title in a record breaking season, as well as the Spanish Supercup,” the former Red Devil added of his boss and Portuguese compatriot.
Although Ronaldo has been in the form of his life for a while now, helping Los Blancos to a 2-0 victory over their bitter local rivals Atletico Madrid at the weekend, Messi has been breaking records this year and become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer.
Betting company Ladbrokes Sport has Lionel Messi at 1/8 to win the gong again, with Ronaldo trailing 6/1. Iniesta is the outside shout at 14/1, but with all three experiencing phenomenal years, there’s an argument for each, deserving nominee.