FIFA and France Football will announce the three finalists for the 2012 Ballon d'Or on Thursday in San Paulo, but we already know who is going to come away with the hardware.
His name is Lionel Messi, and he is the greatest football player in the world right now.
If the Argentinian wins his fourth Ballon d'Or this year, he will become the only player to ever earn the honor four times in his career, surpassing French legend Michel Platini.
Messi has become a near unstoppable force these days. He broke Barcelona's scoring record on March 20 when he fired in the 233rd goal of his career, and he eclipsed legend Pele's record of 75 goals in a calender year earlier this month.
On top of that, Messi was instrumental in some key wins for Argentina in the South American World Cup qualifiers this year.
The Ballon d'Or will be awarded on Jan. 7, 2013, complete with some star football players anxiously awaiting the honor, but we all know Messi deserves it and it wouldn't even matter if his teams played poorly this year. He's a wonder to watch on the pitch, and you don't even have to be a hardcore football fan to recognize his brilliance from the moment you see the 25-year-old play.
Messi, of course, has plenty of football left in him, and he's still relatively young, which makes you wonder what else the Argentinian can do and what other records he can break.
He's already considered one of the greatest football players to ever live. What he does moving forward will determine whether he will be called the indisputable greatest player who ever lived.
If he keeps on winning more hardware and sparking victories for his teams, that label is certainly within his reach.