No matter who eventually wins the FIFA Ballon d’Or award this January, one thing’s for sure – this year’s player of the year award will surely be remembered as the hardest ever to call. Each of the three players named in an announcement yesterday as up for the prestigious award – Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery – can reflect on incredible years and nigh-impossible feats for their respective clubs. But who will win?
Barcelona superstar Leo Messi spent the first half of 2013 reclaiming the La Liga title back from Real Madrid‘s grip. The second half he spent establishing a dominant lead at the top of the Spanish league for the Catalan giants, with the club presently only one point away from their best start to a campaign ever. It says a lot about the calibre of player Messi is that, owing to a hamstring complaint that has persisted since the end of the last season, cutting the Argentine’s game time down significantly, pundits are describing him as “only” having scored 46 goals in 2013 – a number “disappointing” only by his unfathomably high standards, forged by his feats in 2012, a year where he scored a record breaking 91 goals. By any other standards, his achievements in 2013 are stunning.
Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile can reflect on a year easily summed up in one match. Last month’s Portgual vs Sweden second leg qualifier showed the Madrid maestro as the unplayable player he has become in 2013 – a player able to take a game by the scruff of the neck and power through defences to an almost single-handed win. In 48 appearances to date this year for Madrid, he has made a combined 78 goals and assists, striking up a winner partnership with new team mate Gareth Bale. A curious stat that’s telling sign of his current brilliance – following his goalscoring feats in 2013, CR7 has now scored in every minute apart from the 47th. Should be grab a goal in the 47th minute of any match before he retires now, he’ll become the first player in history to score in every single minute of the 90.
Franck Ribery is the race’s dark horse but not to be dismissed. Winning the UEFA Champions League with Bayern Munich, starring against Borussia Dortmund in a captivating final, undoubtedly promoted him into the pantheon of current superstars of the game, alongside Messi and Ronaldo. Bayern have emerged in 2013 as the game’s current dominant domestic force, breaking countless records in the Bundesliga and sweeping aside competition in Europe. Ribery, with his nimble footwork and direct play, is to be heavily credited with that. Some pundits predict that, with Messi and Ronaldo having won the trophy already, those in charge of deciding the Ballon d’Or winner may want to give the prize to new blood. We’ll find out for certain in January. In the meantime, be sure to check out signed memorabilia from Cristiano and Messi, available from Icons today in time for Christmas.
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