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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Players To Watch For Ballon d'Or 2013

Taiu Kunimoto |
October 29, 2013 | 8:48 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Lionel Messi (Wikimedia Commons)
Lionel Messi (Wikimedia Commons)
FIFA has announced the 23 candidates for FIFA Ballon d’Or on Tuesday, which included the world transfer recorder holder Gareth Bale as well as the four-consecutive winner of the award Lionel Messi. Among the shortlisted players, Neon Tommy's staff predicted the top 3 major contenders in the race to win the most prestigious award in the world of soccer.

1.      Lionel Messi

Messi is easily the most valuable and the most impressive striker on planet earth. His steady performances in the past four years can only be described as phenomenal. Just like the previous season, Messi’s magical run with Braca will again be his major selling point. His report card is glittering in mesmerizing statistics. After rewriting the record book with 60 goals and 16 assists in the previous season Messi became Barcelona’s all time leading goal scorer, meanwhile successfully lifting the La Liga trophy for the fourth time in his career. This season, Messi’s magic refuses to cease. Netting 4 goals in Champions League already, he quickly climbed to the second place on the all-time Champions League goal scorer, only 8 goals behind the Real Madrid legend Raul’s 71 goals.

On the international level, Argentina has already secured a position in the next year’s World Cup, qualifying first among the South American teams. As the captain of Argentina, Messi hopes to follow the footsteps of Diego Maradona to win the third World Cup for his country.

The only factor that may hinder his claim to Ballon d'Or this time will be his failure to lead Barcelona to win the Champions League. Other than that, Messi already has one hand on this year’s award, not unless the voters seek for a breath of fresh air after his shear dominance on the pitch in the past five seasons.

2.      Franck Ribery

As one of the most talented members on both the French and the Bayern side, Ribery has a gem in his trophy cabinet that Messi and Ronaldo doesn’t have - a Champions League trophy. Along with Bayern’s win in the domestic league and cup, Ribery won a treble last season, which none of the players listed in the top 3 list could accomplish. With former French nationals Laurent Blanc, Zinedine Zidane and even Michel Platini (current president of UEFA) having his back, Ribery will pose a serious threat to Messi’s fifth title claim.

Nevertheless, the French national team’s shaky footsteps in the World Cup qualifiers and the lower status of Bundesliga compared to Premiere League and La Liga may hurt Ribery’s campaign to win the “Golden Ball”.

Cristiano Ronaldo. (Wikimedia Commons)
Cristiano Ronaldo. (Wikimedia Commons)
3.      Cristiano Ronaldo 

Ronaldo bids for his second Ballon d’Or yet again after falling short as the runner-ups for the last three years. Soley looking at his statistics, Ronaldo for sure deserves the award. With total of 59 goals in a season and blasting 11 goals in the Champions League, he derserves a spot in top 3 without a doubt. ‘Not a bad season’ one would say. Unfortunately, no longer how hard Ronaldo tries recently, Messi always seem to be ahead of him. Furthermore, ending the 2012-13 season empty handed with Real Madrid will make him even harder to clinch the award. This year, the dream of the 28-year-old Portuguese to reclaim the award after five years seems to have gone up the chimney; not because he is a bad player, but that his contenders were flawless beyond word. Ronaldo may have to postpone his redemption for another year.

Knocking On The Door

Just for the fun of it, Neon Tommy's staff also came up with a list of players who have the potential to win or deserve to win the Ballon d’Or. Although the following players would most likely not to be the winners, they deserve a round of applause for their outstanding performances on the pitch last season.

1. Neymar

Neymar is definitely the one to look out for especially in the upcoming years. The confidence from the Brazilian wonder kid sky-rocketed after he led Brazil to win the Confederations Cup on its home turf. Yet, Neymar’s club performances is rather concerning as he struggles to shine in the star-studded Barcelona. Hopefully, his solid performance at El Clasico can serve as the turning point for the young Brazilian. If he wins the World Cup, then he will definitely be a huge contender for the next year’s Ballon d’Or.

2. Bastian Schweinsteiger

As the playmaker around the center circle for Bayern, Schweinsteiger’s contribution to the team often goes unappreciated. He can play almost any position in the midfield making him the most versatile player on both Bayern and the German national team. His 89% pass completion rate in the Champion’s League makes Schweinsteiger one of best passer in Europe, showing his importance to Bayern’s tactic. Schweinsteiger, also known as ‘Schweinii’, which means ‘piglet’ in German, was a corner stone to Bayern’s success last year due to his restless running and accurate distribution on both ends.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic. (Wikimedia Commons)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic. (Wikimedia Commons)

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Owning a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, Ibrahimovic is an astonishingly explosive striker who can rupture the crowd with his amazing scoring ability. After signing with Paris Saint-Germain, he quickly dominated Ligue 1 and snatched almost all of the individual awards available as a striker—Ligue 1 Player of the Year, Top Goalscorer and Team of the Year. Most recently, the 32-year old Swede scored four goals for PSG against Anderlecht, one of which was blasted into the back of

 the net from almost 30 meter away. He is brilliant, but the French league still has to prove its worth to be regarded the most competitive in the world. In order to prove his worth, Ibrahimovic would have to win the Champions League with the rising PSG.

The captains and head coaches of the men’s national team as well as the international media representatives selected by France Football will vote on the player to be honored the Best Player of the Year. By early December, FIFA and France Football would release the top three nominees. The ultimate winner will be announced at the Kongresshaus Zürich on January 13, 2014.

Ballon d’Or, simply known as the Golden Ball in French, is awarded annually to the best performing soccer player annually by FIFA and France Football

Reach Executive Producer Taiu Kunimoto here or follow him on Twitter.



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