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Ballon d’Or contenders

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi are all stellar performers who have the ability to win a game single-handedly.

Whether it’s a Messi dribble, a Ronaldo thunderbolt or a Xavi defence-splitting pass – one of these players will be the match winner in the El Clasico on Saturday.

The trio are competing to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or, an award that was won by Messi in its first year of existence after the Ballon d’Or was combined with the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

Like Messi, Ronaldo has also had the prestige title of World Player of the Year. The Portuguese forward won the accolade in 2008 after hitting outstanding form at Manchester United.

Xavi has twice been named in the final shortlist for the award but has finished in third place on both occasions. His pinpoint passing and commitment to club and country would have won him the gong in any other era, it’s just a shame that he has had to come up against two of the best players in modern time.

Messi has been tipped by the bookmakers to pick up the award on 9 January. If he was to do so, it would be only the second time that a player has won the award three times in a row. The other was Michel Platini in the 1980s.

This year’s battle will be a tight race as Messi and Ronaldo have both been in phenomenal goalscoring form for their clubs. Messi hit 53 goals for Barcelona last season, helping his team to a Champions League triumph and third successive La Liga title.

Messi shone in a disappointing World Cup campaign for Argentina with the 24-year-old assisting the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez with magical build-up play. Messi has started this season off in similar fashion to his last, with the forward bagging an outstanding 17 league goals in just 15 appearances.

Many of Messi’s goals have been assisted by his Barcelona team-mate Xavi. The Spaniard creates goals for fun – he has been a key factor in Spain and Barcelona’s domination of games from start to finish. Competition for places at both his national team and at Barcelona is fierce, but the 31-year-old has managed to hold down his place due to his world-class playmaking ability. Many regard the diminutive star as the best midfielder in the world.
Real Madrid’s Ronaldo matched Messi’s 53 goals but could only help his side to the Copa Del Rey last season, a feat that should not be overlooked.  Ronaldo scored the same amount of goals in a team that was being moulded by Jose Mourinho.

The 26-year-old failed to shine on the big stage in South Africa, with the attacker only managing to score one goal in the tournament. He has often been accused of failing to make an impact against the big teams, a thoughtless assessment considering he scored in the Copa Del Rey final in April and has opened the scoring in a Champions League final. Ronaldo has scored 17 goals in 14 league games this season, helping his side to the top of the table with a three-point lead and a game in hand.

Any of the three players are worthy winners of the Ballon d’Or but I cannot see past Messi picking up his third successive World Player of the Year title. His creativity, elegance and skill will see him win the award and go down as one of the all-time greatest footballers to grace this planet.

Anthony Hay

Football Friends Football Blogs bring you the latest football news and opinion from football fans around the world.

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