Cristiano Ronaldo is the odds-on favorite to win a second Ballon d’Or crown after FIFA’s 23-man shortlist was whittled down to just three nominees.
The Real Madrid forward will be joined by fellow finalists Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery at the award ceremony, which is set to take place Jan. 13 in Zurich.
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After months of heated debate on the topic, the names on the three-man shortlist came as no surprise. Historically, the award has been dished out to attack-minded players, and this year will be no different.
Since the golden ball was first handed out to England’s Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956, 52 of 57 winners have been of the attacking mould—per FIFA.
Ronaldo first emerged as the favourite for the individual gong after his four-goal haul in Portugal’s two-leg World Cup play-off win over Sweden.
FIFA’s controversial decision to extend the voting until after the play-offs angered many, including Ribery, per ESPN.
While the Frenchman denied he was annoyed, he did add that it was a “pity” it happened the year he was in contention.
Ribery had initially led the way with the bookies after a phenomenal year for Bayern Munich, but now he has dropped below both Ronaldo and Messi in the pecking order.
Franck Ribéry: Has dribbled past more opponents (155) than any other player in Europe's top 5 leagues + the Champions League in 2013— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 9, 2013
Since the first prize was handed out in 1956, Ballon d’Or voters have often celebrated individual brilliance over club achievements. The only silverware Matthews—the inaugural winner—ever won was an FA Cup title with Blackpool, but it was his talent that shone through.
While much of the Ballon d’Or talk has surrounded the lengthening of the voting window, it shouldn’t take away from the fact Ronaldo has proven himself to be a worthy contender for the individual prize.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Has scored at least 14 more goals (51) than any other player in Europe's top 5 leagues + CL in 2013; Messi second (37)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 9, 2013
The Portuguese star has been nothing short of scintillating for both club and country. His 66 goals this calendar year, including seven hat-tricks, are double that of Messi and Ribery combined.
Who deserves the 2013 Ballon d'Or?
In an era of statistics, those figures are sure to impress the national coaches, captains and select media who were each given a vote.
Betting for the 2013 Ballon d’Or is not confined to the outright winner, however. Paddy Power is offering odds of 5-1 for Ronaldo to win and not show up to the event.
The former Manchester United man has refused to confirm or deny that he will attend the ceremony—per ESPN. He was infuriated with Sepp Blatter after the FIFA president appeared to mock him when addressing students at Oxford University and now Ronaldo could be set to hit back.
The debate about Ronaldo, Messi and Ribery is sure to rage on between now and Jan. 13. But in the eyes of the bookies, there is one clear winner.