Franck Ribery, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were announced as the three contenders for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or on Monday. Messi’s injury troubles and a late change to the voting system have made Ronaldo favourite to claim this year’s prize.
The three-man shortlist was selected from an original group of 23 of the world’s best players, with those missing out including the likes of Paris Saint Germain duo Edison Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the world’s most expensive footballer - Real Madrid and Wales winger Gareth Bale.
However, injury has seen the 26-year-old ut of action since early November – something likely to damage his chances of retaining the tile.
This could open the door for Real Madrid striker Ronaldo, looking to claim his second Ballon d’Or having first won the competition in 2008 while a Manchester United player.
Despite his phenomenal record in recent years, Ronaldo has struggled to step out of Messi’s shadow. But with the Argentinean suffering an injury-hit season and Ronaldo’s continued impressive form – netting 67 goals in just 56 appearances for Portugal and Real Madrid in 2013 – many believe this could be his year.
Ronaldo has also benefited from a change to the voting system used by FIFA to determine the Ballon d’Or winner.
FIFA gave voters – who comprise national team captains, national coaches and journalists – two extra weeks to choose from the original 23 candidates, and even change preference.
The additional time gave Ronaldo the chance to impress as he helped Portugal qualify for the World Cup last month - scoring a hat-trick against Sweden in the process – and he is now considered the favourite for the award by pundits and bookmakers.
Winning FIFA’s top individual prize could prove extra satisfying for Ronaldo following a bizarre public spat with the organisation’s president Sepp Blatter earlier this year.
Blatter offended the 28-year-old with comments and mimicry when addressing students at Oxford University in England.
Contrasting Messi’s humble, low-key personality with Ronaldo’s apparent vanity, Blatter impersonated what he described as the Portugal winger’s “commander in the field” stature.
Ronaldo responded in a barbed statement on his Facebook page and celebrated a goal in his next match with a mock military salute gesture.
The Portuguese government even got involved to defend its national hero, and the dispute seemed to confirm to Madrid fans and the media that FIFA is biased toward Barcelona, even though Ballon d’Or ballots are cast independently.
Voting change hurts Ribery‘s chances
France and Bayern Munich winger Ribery, meanwhile, also has reason to feel aggrieved with FIFA – the 30-year-old had been the favourite to claim this year’s Ballon d’Or before the surprise change to the voting system was announced.
Nevertheless, he could yet have a chance, having been a key part of Bayern’s phenomenal 2012-2013 season, which saw them claim an historic treble of the Bundesliga title, German cup and Champions League.
Ribery has also already won UEFA’s Best Player in Europe Award this year.
Meanwhile, Ribery's former Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes is up against ex-Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson and Borussia Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp in the male coach of the year nominees.
Ralf Kellermann (VfL Wolfsburg), Silvia Neid (German national team) and Pia Sundhage (Swedish national team) are the selected trio of coaches for women's football and Nadine Angerer (Germany), Marta (Brazil) and Abby Wambach (USA) are the three candidates for the FIFA Womens' World Player of the Year award.
The Ballon d'Or will be presented at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 13.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-09