A Spanish news agency that has pedigree in predicting the Ballon d'Or winner, Agencia News, has reported that Lionel Messi will win a fifth crown next month, per the Mirror's John Cross.
Last year, the same agency correctly established the contest's top five players prior to the award's announcement. It has now made a similar forecast this year, with the betting market also swinging in the Argentine's favour:
Bookies have slashed Lionel Messi's odds on winning Ballon d'Or for 5th straight year; results were leaked to Spanish news agency. (Mirror)— TNC La Liga (@TNC_LaLiga) December 5, 2013
Per Cross, William Hill spokesman Tony Kenny commented:
It seems the momentum is behind Messi. The market has changed over the last few days. Ronaldo remains the 4/6 favourite - although he has drifted from 4/11.
Messi has come in the betting from 4/1 into 11/10 - this is market forces and punter support - which is probably linked to the Agencia story. Ribery is out to 10/1 having been even money favourite in June. It's a really strange market - and certainly we've never seen anything like it.
Were Messi to secure success in 2013, the award would cause major consternation among fans of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery, with the Argentine having had a far from vintage year in 2013.
While Ronaldo has broken many records, including most Champions League goals in a calendar year per Goal.com's Ben Hayward, Ribery has helped Bayern to a famous Treble. The duo were thought to be real contenders for the crown this year:
A flurry of bets has seen Messi come in to 8/11 to win the Ballon D'or. Will we see Ronaldo's sulky face again? http://t.co/joJZ59z9mn— Paddy Power (@paddypower) December 4, 2013
A Messi win would therefore raise questions as to the way the award is conducted and the criteria used, with the Ballon d'Or traditionally rewarding the best individual performer of the past 12 months—not necessarily the person considered the world's best player.
Over the past year, for all his excellence when fit, it would be difficult to say that Messi has been the best individual performer of a year in which he has suffered from several injury absences and been part of a Barca side that have not hit the heights of previous seasons.
Having said that, he did win La Liga with Barcelona and therefore has a major trophy in his cabinet that Ronaldo cannot boast in 2013.
While the suggestion that FIFA is biased in his favour is bizarre, given that the award is voted for by captains, coaches and journalists from around the world, it would be understandable if there was some dismay at the decision.
The award has become hugely hyped since merging with the FIFA World Player of the Year crown in 2009, but is becoming increasingly irrelevant as the criteria for its awarding become ever more blurred.