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Sunday, 15 January 2012

2012 Fifa Ballon D'Or Predictions

Four For Messi, Ronaldo To Regain, Or Cesc To Star - Here Are The Possible Contenders For The 2012 Fifa Ballon D'Or

Messi swept all before him once more, but who will emerge as contenders as the Argentine bids to collect the award for the fourth consecutive year? We assess the prime suspects

The footballing world once again paid homage to the genius of Lionel Messi on Monday evening in Zurich, as the incomparable Argentine collected his third consecutive Ballon d'Or prize, consigning team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to the shadows and solidifying his place in the pantheon of footballing deities.

The 24-year-old became only the second player in history, after the legendary Michel Platini, to collect the prestigious accolade three years in a row, and joins an elite band of individuals who can claim a trio of the golden globes in their personal trophy cabinets. 

Platini, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and now Messi - with the adroit attacker surely destined to continue to eclipse the achievements of his contemporaries and, one day, claim the prize for an unprecedented fourth occasion.

But will it be in 2012? Competitions such as the Champions League and Euro 2012 will define the calendar year, and perhaps a genuine challenger can emerge to Messi's mantle as the finest player in the world today, particularly when Spain bid to retain their European title in Poland and Ukraine. has lined up just some of the names likely to be considered for the Ballon d'Or in 12 months' time. We couldn't include everyone, so if you think there are other names who require recognition, let us know in the comments section below.

  Lionel MESSI | Barcelona

Little more can be said about the abilities of Messi. Put simply, he is a calibre of player that emerges once every generation. He is dedicated, motivated, and has developed from the raw youth with physical problems into a supremely fit, ridiculously talented world star. If injury can be evaded, and he is able to bring further success to Barcelona, he will unquestionably be the favourite to collect the trophy once again. But will the judges lean towards the star of Euro 2012 - whoever that may be?
Cristiano RONALDO | Real Madrid
Ronaldo remains, in the eyes of many, Messi's only comparable rival, and his astonishing goal and assist ratio throughout his two and a half years in Madrid have raised the bar not only in La Liga, but across the world. What the Portuguese must now strive for is tangible success under Jose Mourinho - if he were to help deliver either La Liga or the Champions League between now and June, he could reclaim the award he received for the first time in 2008.

XAVI | Barcelona
Arguably the finest Spanish midfielder of all time, Xavi has been forced to settle for third position in the Ballon d'Or in the past three seasons. Many observers believe that 2010, and La Roja's monumental World Cup win, may have been the Barca creator's year, and as he turns 32 later this month, he may have resigned himself to never collecting the accolade. However, an inspirational Euro 2012, with Spain bidding to retain their title, could yet make Xavi a contender.

Andres INIESTA | Barcelona
Second in 2010, and failed to land a podium place this year thanks to the consistency of his Barca team-mates and the prolific feats of Ronaldo. But Iniesta remains just 27 years of age, and his time for recognition could yet bet in the offing. Barcelona and Spain will once more be pushing for honours, and one of La Masia's greatest proponents will prove integral to the successes of both esteemed sides. Should he provide a moment similar to his World Cup-winning effort in 2010, he could claim the top prize.
Cesc FABREGAS | Barcelona
Few doubted that Cesc's triumphant return to Camp Nou would be anything other than prosperous, and what has surprised most has been his advanced role, operating in tandem with Messi. However, Real Madrid offer a genuine threat to Barcelona's domestic and European dominance, and in 2012 the former Arsenal midfielder will need to maintain his form, and indeed exceed his own standard, for Barca to maintain the status quo, to hope to land the golden ball.

Iker CASILLAS | Real Madrid
The Ballon d'Or is not an award that has been generous to shot-stoppers over the years, with only Oliver Kahn (third in 2001 and 2002) and Gianluigi Buffon (second in 2006) making any impact in the modern era, but Casillas has consistently proven his credentials as one of the finest keepers ever to grace the game. At 30, he still has much to give, and nothing to prove. A transcendental year for Real Madrid, and further glory for Spain, may provide him the recognition he deserves.
Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER | Bayern Munich
Read more on SchweinsteigerBayern's midfield commander has recently returned from a shoulder injury, and how his team toiled without his distinguished presence. Schweinsteiger has previously indicated his importance at national level, too, enjoying a dominant World Cup as Die Mannschaft reached the semi-finals in 2010, and he will be expected to inspire Germany with distinction again this summer at Euro 2012. Should Joachim Low's charges return home with the trophy, Schweinsteiger is sure to have been pivotal in their achievement.

Robin VAN PERSIE | Arsenal
Read more on Van PersieVan Persie's tally of 35 goals in 2011 was just one short of Alan Shearer's Premier League record, but perhaps more significantly, a player of immense potential avoided injury and thrust himself into the higher echelon of world stars. The Dutchman is utterly irreplaceable at the Emirates, and if his goals for the Gunners can be married with silverware, as well as a strong showing in the Euros, then the 28-year-old could threaten the Ballon d'Or's usual suspects.

NEYMAR | Santos
Brazilian football's great hope enjoyed a stellar 2011, guiding Santos to their first Copa Libertadores title since 1963. His annus mirabilis culminated with being presented with the Fifa Puskas award for best goal of the year, a mesmerising strike against Flamengo. But with the Selecao featuring only in friendlies in 2012, and his club future distinctly unclear, it would take a gargantuan feat for the 19-year-old to collect the crown this year. His time, however, will no doubt come.

Mario GOMEZ | Bayern Munich
An outsider for the accolade, but his goalscoring exploits across the past 18 months have been nothing short of superhuman. Sixty-three strikes in his last 70 games for the Bavarians is the type of potency in front of goal to challenge the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. With the 2012 Champions League final taking place at the Allianz Arena, and a Gomez-led Germany among the favourites for Euro 2012, can goalscoring instincts bring the 26-year-old the ultimate individual honour?

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