The 10 nominees for the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball award have been announced with a handful of the game's biggest names and rising stars included in the shortlist.
The list includes players from four of the 32 participating nations, with world stars such as Argentina's Lionel Messi, Germany's Thomas Mueller and Dutchman Arjen Robben all included.
Arguably the tournament's breakout star, Colombia's James Rodriguez, is also included among the contenders. Here is the full list of nominees:
|2014 World Cup Golden Ball Nominees|
|Angel Di Maria||Argentina|
Unsurprisingly, Germany and Argentina—the two finalists—contribute some of the top contenders for this year's award.
Messi has effectively carried his side to the final, netting four times as Argentina narrowly won all their group games. He then played a big part in the winning goals of both Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain against Switzerland and Belgium respectively in the knockout rounds.
Although not at his brilliant best against the Netherlands in the semi-final, he calmly slotted home his penalty in a shootout victory that saw his side through to the final.
If he can inspire Argentina to World Cup glory in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, it will be difficult to look past him as the rightful winner of the Golden Ball.
Equally, Mueller could stake a serious claim for the award if he puts in another terrific performance in the final.
At just 24 years old, he may need just one more goal to claim a second consecutive Golden Boot award, a feat never before achieved.
The most potent attacking force in a splendid German attack, he has once again shown himself to be a World Cup specialist and is most certainly in with a shout for the Golden Ball.
Outside of the finalists, Arjen Robben has for many been the player of the tournament as he inspired an unfancied Dutch side all the way to the last four, per ESPN:
Nominated in 2010 when the Netherlands lost in the final—Uruguay's Diego Forlan eventually won the Golden Ball—Robben will likely fall short once again but has lit up the tournament with some dazzling play.
Although Colombia were knocked out by Brazil in the quarter-finals, Rodriguez's performances as Los Cafeteros cruised to the last eight make him many people's favourite to win the award, per Sky Sports Football:
He is currently the tournament's top goalscorer, having bagged six in just five games including arguably the goal of the competition against Uruguay, per the BBC's Phil McNulty:
The 22-year-old Monaco player's relative lack of exposure before the tournament has seen him break out as one of the world's brightest and most popular stars during the tournament, and he is a genuine contender to claim the gong.
The likes of Diego Maradona, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane have won the Golden Ball in the past, proving the prestige of the award.
Who will receive the honour this time around remains to be seen, but there are plenty of deserving nominees from what has been a stunning tournament.