As one of the sport's most heralded attackers, Thierry Henry's opinion is one worth listening to when it comes to this year's Ballon d'Or line-up, recently announced by FIFA:
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery have each lit up 2013 with their contributions for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
The latter of those three, Ribery, sits as arguably the most surprising of the three finalists, despite being announced as European Player of the Year back in August. Still, Henry provides reason to believe in his countryman, per the Daily Mail's David Kent:
He’s a great player. He’s another type of player. He’d rather set up someone than score a goal. That’s the type of player you want to play with. For me, obviously, I would love for him to win it.
It's that playmaking instinct that most would highlight if they were to make a case for why Ribery deserves to win this year's award. Less of a goalscorer than his two Ballon d'Or rivals, the Frenchman was the creative genius behind Bayern Munich's treble success of last term.
For the last five years, Ronaldo and Messi have come out as the top two in the polls, with the Barcelona pairing of Xavi and Andres Iniesta the only players managing to break up the pattern. Both are more renowned for their playmaking.
In fact, Kaka was the last player to win the Ballon d'Or for exploits relating to provision rather than goalscoring potential, and even then the Brazilian registered more goals than assists over the course of 2007 (the year he won the award), per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
The Telegraph's Juan Arango stated back in October that Ribery deserves to triumph this time around:
The player that deserves this year's Ballon D'Or... Frank Ribéry, makes it 3-0 for the best team in the world. #MiaSanMia— Juan Arango (@JuanG_Arango) October 23, 2013
Ribery, too, has more goals than assists in 2013, per Transfermarkt.co.uk, but the winger's talents in supplying ammunition to those around him run far deeper than just what the numbers show.
Indeed, without the Frenchman, one might debate that Bayern wouldn't have claimed their famous treble in as dominant as fashion as they did. Ribery's contribution of 22 assists and 23 goals was not matched by any other player in Der FCB's squad.
However, it's difficult to look past Ronaldo, currently enjoying some of the best form in his career to date, with Henry adding, per Kent's report:
There’s always big talk about Ronaldo, and his attitude and all of that. At one point you have to stop talking about the attitude and looking at the stats and what he’s been doing, and stop talking. And just watch. What he’s been doing is crazy.
Louis Saha used to tell me back in the day, that Ronaldo would be the best in the world for a very long time. I was like, okay, let’s see. Because you know, I didn't know. And Louis said, you know the way he works, is unbelievable. And you have to give him his credit.
As one of Ronaldo's former Manchester United teammates, Saha was in the right position to comment on the Portuguese star.
The 28-year-old's appearance against Copenhagen on Tuesday evening made Ronaldo the first player ever to score nine goals in the Champions League group stage, further breaking his own record of goals scored in the tournament during a calendar year, now standing at 15.
That's on top of the 67-goal tally that the forward had already amassed from just 56 games, as Uber Football Facts show:
In 2013 Ronaldo: 67 Goals-14 assists-56 Games Messi: 45 Goals-16 assists-47 Games Ribery: 22 Goals-20 assists-51 Games— Uber Football Facts (@UberFotbalFacts) December 9, 2013
But there's a certain four-time Ballon d'Or winner at Barcelona who has done plenty to prove that it should be five times in a row this year, despite going through the most injury woes of any finalist.
Touching on Messi's quality, Henry added of his former Blaugrana teammate:
He wants to play every single game. Like every single game. Like, cup game, first round, second round. In training he wants to beat everybody. You know, the typical one, where he gets fouled. But they don’t call the foul on him. Next thing you know, he will go and ask the keeper to give him the ball, and run past everyone and score.
He will take it from you, wherever you are, and score again. Until he gets a bit more relaxed. So then you end up losing the game. I've never seen that before.
As aforementioned, the South American's 2013 has been rocked with injury, so it's remarkable that Messi has even managed to rack up the 45 goals he has in 2013, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
After winning the last four awards in a row, Barcelona's poster boy is in arguably his weakest position yet when heading into a Ballon d'Or ceremony, having not featured for his club since early November and unavailable until 2014.
However, where Ronaldo beats him for goals over the past 12 months, Messi trumps the Portuguese for silverware. Where Ribery overcomes Messi for trophies, he loses out on individual statistics. It's a fascinating battle to be crowned the world's best.
Henry is all too familiar with the Ballon d'Or process, having made the final three on two occasions during his time at Arsenal, but never coming out on top of the polls.
In 2003, Juventus' Pavel Nedved saw the French forward finish in second place before Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon beat Henry to first and second respectively, in 2006.
A French flyer will once again figure among the top three this year for the first time since it was Henry in the running, but will 2013 be the year of Les Bleus?