Ballon d'Or 2013: Making a Case for and Against Each Finalist

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona holds the Ballon d'Or trophy prior to the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis Balompie at Camp Nou on January 15, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Each of the three finalists for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or award is incredibly deserving of the highest individual honor the sport can bestow upon an individual. But ultimately, only one person can win.

While many consider Lionel Messi to be the heavy favorite to win his fourth consecutive award, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrés Iniesta have a fighter's chance when the announcement is made at the Zurich Kongresshaus on Monday night.

Let's take a look at why each of the three finalists should—and shouldn't—be the one to raise the trophy over their head.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Case For Ronaldo

Ronaldo was a major reason why Real not only won La Liga, but why his squad advanced to the Champions League semifinals, where he scored twice against Bayern Munich in the second leg of the tournament.

The first man to score a goal in six consecutive clásicos, the 27-year-old forward scored a record 60 goals in 55 matches for Real Madrid last season.

Between his play for Real and Portugal, Ronaldo finished the season with 67 goals and 16 assists—numbers that are the envy of virtually every other player in the world.

The Case Against Ronaldo

At times, he can seemingly disappear—see the European Championships for proof of that—and his performance with the national team is what very well may ultimately cost Ronaldo his second career award.

Andrés Iniesta

The Case For Iniesta

Iniesta was the catalyst behind Spain's run to the European championship. He was named not only the best player in the finals but in the entire tournament, leading Spain to become the first team to win three consecutive major championships.

Arguably the most complete midfielder in the world, the 28-year-old Iniesta controls the pitch with aplomb, dictating the flow of the game and making intelligent decisions—not only when he's controlling the ball but in positioning himself to make plays.

He's already beaten the other two finalists, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, for one major award, as he was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA.

The Case Against Iniesta

He's not as flashy as Messi or Ronaldo, and his statistics pale in comparison to theirs. Four goals and 15 assists this season, in addition to nine goals and 11 assists last season, look incredibly pedestrian when put side by side with the statistics of his competitors.

It may not be the strongest argument against him, but it's an indisputable fact. And fair or unfair, it very well may cost him a chance to win FIFA's highest individual honor.

Lionel Messi

The Case For Messi

Messi has rewritten the record books, first for more goals in a European season, then for most goals in a calendar year—both records formerly owned by the legendary Gerd Muller.

His numbers speak for themselves.

Last season, Messi found the back of the net 77 times while adding 27 assists in both club and international competition. This season, he's already added 49 goals and nine more assists to his gaudy totals.

He's become Barcelona's all-time leading goal scorer, and he broke the record for the most goals scored in a UEFA Champions League season.

Simply put, Messi is the best player in the world, and he has been for some time.

The Case Against Messi

For all of his goal-scoring prowess, Messi was only able to lead Barcelona to victory in the Copa del Rey, failing to win any other major championships for his club or country.