The Golden Child
Though we have half a mind to return to our contrarian roots and forgo another slideshow, alas, there is only one proper way to do a piece on predicting the next 10 FIFA Ballon d'Or winners.
The ceremony for the 2012 edition is still a ways off—early January 2013—but after observing some inspired play from the U-23s at the Olympics, we're inclined to do some future-forward football thinking.
The FIFA Ballon d'Or is only in its third year of existence, after the FIFA braintrust decided to mash up the Ballon d'Or and FIFA Player of the Year distinctions in 2010.
Though most people outside of Madrid would agree that the 2012 edition is a foregone conclusion, we're going to start our premonitory assessments with the here and now and conclude with a 2021 prediction.
Henceforth, readers should probably address your humble presenter as The Great Carnac of Football (as in a soothsayer who aims to entertain, not preach gospel). But, as your youth coach probably told you once or twice, let's just "have some fun out there."
There's simply no other direction to go for the present-day prediction; 73 goals and 29 assists in all competitions during the 2011-2012 club season.
He also amassed eight goals and one assist in just four appearances for Argentina in 2012.
FIFA (and its panel of captains, coaches and media voters) couldn't possibly give the award to Messi for a fifth straight year. Think again, Einstein. With five goals in three appearances already in the 2012-2013 campaign, El Rey is still on an obscene pace.
Messi and Barcelona are keen to reclaim La Liga and possibly the Champions League trophy after failing in both those quests in 2011-2012.
Finalists: Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Vengeance is his in 2014, AD. CR7 will supplant his nemesis and quiet his critics once again.
Finalists: Sergio Kun Aguero, Mario Balotelli
As CR and Messi enter their late prime, Özil emerges as the true footballing genius that he is.
Finalists: Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale
The year Super Mario becomes Mario The Mature.
Finalists: Gonzalo Higuain, Eden Hazard
In 2017, Hazard's game will reach its apex.
Finalists: Thomas Müller, Aaron Ramsey
At last, the phenom ascends to the throne.
Finalists: Marco Reus, Leandro Damião
Where will you be in seven years? God only knows, but the football gods know something that we don't—Oscar is destined for greatness.
Finalists: Jack Wilshere, Neymar
We're well beyond the limits of our prognosticating powers, but we're prepared to anoint AOC as the first winner of the next decade.
Finalists: Lucas Moura, Mario Götze
When in doubt, choose a Spaniard. This present-day teenager will be deep into his prime, but he's got a shot at the gold.
Finalists: Thiago Alcantara, Souleymane Coulibaly
I've done my best, feel free to do the same with your predictions. You can also do your worst with your commentary but, as always, keep it constructive.