The 2012 FIFA Ballon D’or will be awarded early next year, and of the 20 candidates up for this year’s prize, one name stands out. Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi is the outstanding candidate for the coveted prize and with good reason. Throughout 2012, he has scored a massive 82 goals in all competitions, just six away from breaking the record set by legendary Germany striker Gerd Muller. Messi is the overwhelming favourite to win the prize, but who are his rivals, and can they stop him?
One of the other two major candidates for the Ballon D’or is Barca teammate Andres Iniesta. The inventive attacking midfielder has helped Messi immensely throughout his career, supplying him with endless assists against many of their opponents, but one thing Iniesta has in his favour is international success. While Messi hasn’t quite delivered with Argentina, Iniesta has enjoyed unparalleled success with Spain, playing a key role in winning and retaining the European Championships and, most impressively of all, the World Cup.
The third candidate to make it through the 20-man shortlist is Messi’s greatest rival to date, Real Madrid’s polarising Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a record that stands up against that of Messi, and unlike the diminutive Argentine, has a La Liga winners’ medal to show for his efforts in the past year. However, what may count against him is that Real’s title defence has stuttered, and that he has underperformed since September. This may count against him when the award is given out.
The odds with Ladbrokes Sport of Messi picking up the trophy for the fourth time in succession are pretty short, but it’s hard not to bet against him, even if he hasn’t won as much as Iniesta or Ronaldo in the past 12 months. Should the award go to one of the other two, it would be a huge shock.