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Player-by-Player Guide to the 2013 Ballon d'Or Race

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Player-by-Player Guide to the 2013 Ballon d'Or Race
Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports

Votes are being cast, odds are fluctuating and the hype is growing ahead of the announcement of who will be crowned the winner of the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or—football's premier award marking the world's greatest player over the past year.

Bayern Munich dominate this year's shortlist following their treble-winning season, with no less than six of their players nominated.

In fact, Germany as a nation are very well represented with five players included on the list, with no other country able to boast more than two candidates for FIFA's end-of-year gong.

This is a marked shift in the makeup of the award from 2012, when seven Spaniards—four of whom played for Barcelona—ruled over the competition.

Last year's winner was of course their Argentinian colleague Lionel Messi, with the diminutive magician setting his sights on a historic fourth FIFA Ballon d'Or win in 2013.

Yet if you include the award's original format, run for the last time by France Football in 2009, Messi has already claimed the last four, consecutive titles. Should he take home this year's golden ball, he would be able to boast an unmatchable clean sweep of five trophies.

While the record-breaking forward may have won the 2012 prize with 41.6 percent of the vote, as per BBC Sport, this year's contest is set to be far closer, with his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery overshadowing the Argentine.

Ronaldo enjoyed another phenomenal season last year even though Real Madrid failed to win La Liga or the Champions League.

His record in the first half of this campaign has arguably been even more impressive, having single-handedly secured World Cup qualification for Portugal while continuing to lead Madrid's modern clutch of Galacticos by example.

Ribery may not be able to post up a goal tally to compete with Messi and Ronaldo, but the Frenchman was so often Bayern's most pivotal player as they triumphed on all fronts in the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal cup and Champions League last year.

There's an argument that, much like Inter's treble-winning Wesley Sneijder in 2010, Ribery is the most deserving winner having produced his greatest ever season and contributing to the most successful team in the world in this calendar year.

After all, with Pep Guardiola replacing the retiring Jupp Heynckes as Bayern boss, the Bavarians look to have gone from strength to strength, with fan favourite Ribery still vital to their irresistible attacking football.

There are, however, 20 other potential recipients who share the shortlist with these three stars, so hit the button below to get started as we assess each player's claim to greatness in 2013.

All stats sourced from WhoScored.com.

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