Lionel Messi had the Ballon d'Or under deft control long before the drawn-out ceremony in Zurich. The Barcelona star left his brilliant brushstrokes all over 2012, scoring 91 goals and being as generous with his genius as any player before him.
It was the fourth year in succession Messi has been crowned best player on the planet. The 25-year-old is without peer in the modern game and already the firm favorite to win the 2013 Ballon d'Or.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be cast as the man most likely to stop him. The Real Madrid star drove his team to the Spanish title last season and showed flashes of his flamboyant best at Euro 2012, but he still fell short of Messi in the FIFA voting last year.
Ronaldo won the prize in 2008 and it took Manchester United winning the Champions League to bring it home. Ronaldo will need to knock United out in the last 16 and win Europe's biggest prize with Madrid to outrank Messi in 2013.
That's assuming it'll come down to Messi vs. Ronaldo, the foremost superpowers of the modern game.
What if it doesn't? What if somebody else leaves both men in the shade this year?
Is it conceivable that a player could beat both Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d'Or in 2013?
Here are five men with a chance.