Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez has admitted there is some debate over who has been the best player in 2013 ahead of January’s Ballon d’Or vote.
The Spanish midfielder said that while Barca teammate Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the world’s best player, certain circumstances may prevent him from getting his hands on a fifth successive individual crown.
Per Dermot Corrigan at ESPN FC, Xavi, who is part of the 23-man shortlist himself, said:
If we look at who is the best player in the world, it is Messi, no doubt. Now, if we talk about the best player in 2013, then I will admit there is some debate. Winning four in a row might damage him when it comes to the voting.
Messi, who is the only Argentine on the shortlist, had been the favourite to capture an unprecedented fifth Ballon d’Or after yet another stellar year in maroon and blue.
In 2013, the Barcelona forward found the net with 37 goals in 36 appearances—per Soccerbase. However, Messi may not play again this year after being ruled out for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury that he picked up in Blaugrana's La Liga clash with Real Betis on Nov. 10—per the Guardian.
With Cristiano Ronaldo impressing for Los Blancos this season, Real Madrid’s star man poses a serious threat to Messi’s crown come voting time.
Xavi admitted as much when he told Sport, via Goal.com:
I would always give it to Messi, because he is the player that wins matches by himself, although you have to recognise that Ribery and Cristiano have reached stratospheric heights in terms of goals and assists.
The Portuguese winger-come-forward has found the net 34 times in 27 appearances this season for club and country—per ESPN FC—and he still has six weeks to improve his numbers further prior to the Ballon d'Or ceremony.
The La Liga duo also face stiff competition from Franck Ribery. The Frenchman helped Bayern Munich to an historic treble last season, winning the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup in Jupp Heynckes’ last year at the helm.
The winger, who has yet to lose a club game in 2013, has scored 22 goals while grabbing a further 20 assists this year—per ESPN FC.
However, if the European Player of the Year fails to lead France, who need to overturn a 0-2 deficit at home to the Ukraine on Tuesday, to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, his Ballon d’Or hopes will take a considerable hit.
The winner of FIFA’s top individual award will be revealed on Jan. 13 in Zurich.