Ballon d'Or: Talented Players Who Could Contend for 2013 Award

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 25:  Radamel Falcao of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Vicente Calderon Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or as the world's best player for the fourth year in a row. However, it is never too early to think about next season.

Of course, the 2013 list is likely to look very similar to the 2012 version. Messi certainly will not go from scoring 91 goals in a calendar year to completely out of the picture, so he will remain as a favorite to win next year.

In addition, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta will continue to be considered two of the best players as they dominate La Liga on their respective teams.

However, the sport is still deeper than just a few players. These players are on the brink of greatness and could be finalists next season.


Radamel Falcao, Atletico Madrid and Colombia

Along with the Ballon d'Or, FIFA also announced its Dream XI, a list of the top players in the world. Right up front with Messi and Ronaldo was Radamel Falcao. 

It is difficult to be in a category with easily the two best players in the world, but Falcao deserves this praise.

He is currently second in La Liga with 17 goals behind only Messi and one in front of Ronaldo. He is also the major reason that Atletico Madrid are ahead of Real Madrid for second in the league table.

If he can help bring his Colombian national team to the World Cup, he should definitely be in consideration for the sport's top individual award.


Robin van Persie, Manchester United and Holland

Although Robin van Persie has always been an elite goal scorer, he is now expanding his game with his new team. 

The Dutch forward transferred from Arsenal to Manchester United, and the move has already changed his perception. He leads the EPL with 16 goals, but he is also high on the list with six assists.

More importantly, Manchester United will allow him to win trophies as a team. The club currently has a seven-point lead in the league and is in contention for the Champions League title. 

For someone who has only built up individual accomplishments, this could make a huge difference.

Van Persie can put the ball in the net as well as anyone in the world. With some team success, he can be a contender for the Ballon d'Or next year.


Neymar, Santos and Brazil

At only 20 years old, Neymar is quickly becoming one of the top players in the world.

He has already twice been named the South American Footballer of the year, and it is only a matter of time until his impressive play is realized by those around the world.

Neymar is averaging almost a goal per game with Santos. So far during the 2012-13 season, he has 29 scores in 31 games.

The only thing missing is this type of production against higher competition and on a bigger stage. That might be tough to accomplish this year, but the world will be able to see what he can do before long.