Ballon d'Or 2013: Nominees List and Top Contender Breakdown

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IOctober 30, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 27:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoreing his side's 5th goal during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona at Estadio Teresa Rivero on October 27, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

When it comes to the FIFA Ballon d'Or, it's Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and everybody else. 

Not everyone will agree with that statement, but the pair of unstoppable players have absolutely controlled the award in recent memory. Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or in 2009, Messi won it in 2010 and Messi has won the last two, which were renamed the FIFA Ballon d'Or after being merged with FIFA Player of the Year. 

With the young duo headlining this year's list of 23 final nominees, it appears as though one of them will make it five straight years atop the football world. 

And it's not difficult to see why.

While Barcelona—which won "only" the Copa del Rey—had a slight down year, its little Argentine was as dominant as ever. 

Messi scored a record 14 goals in the UEFA Champions League to add to his ridiculous tally of 72 across all matches. In International play, he led Argentina to a goal differential of 13 and a commanding lead atop the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table. This season, he's off to more of the same. 

Ronaldo, meanwhile, led Real Madrid to a La Liga title by scoring 46 goals while taking his squad to the semis of the Champions League. After a blazing start in 2012, he looks primed to repeat that success. On the International level, CR7's performance in Euro 2012 should only help in his quest to win this prestigious award for the second time.

Here's a look at all the nominees (via FIFA.com):

Player Club Country
Sergio Aguero Manchester City Argentina
Xabi Alonso Real Madrid Spain
Mario Balotelli Manchester City Italy
Karim Benzema Real Madrid France
Gianluigi Buffon Juventus Italy
Sergio Busquets Barcelona Spain
Iker Casillas Real Madrid Spain
Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid Portugal
Didier Drogba Shanghai Shenhua Ivory Coast
Radamel Falcao Atletico Madrid Colombia
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Pari Saint-Germain Sweden
Andres Iniesta Barcelona Spain
Lionel Messi Barcelona Argentina
Manuel Neuer Bayern Munich Germany
Neymar Santos Brazil
Mesut Ozil Real Madrid Germany
Gerard Pique Barcelona Spain
Andrea Pirlo Juventus Italy
Sergio Ramos Real Madrid Spain
Wayne Rooney Manchester United England
Yaya Toure Manchester City Ivory Coast
Robin van Persie Manchester United Netherlands
Xavi Barcelona Spain

Three finalists will be named on November 29. It's assumed that Messi and Ronaldo will be two of those names called, but who will be the third?

Radamel Falcao

As the only one able to keep up with Messi and Ronaldo in La Liga, Falcao is quickly establishing himself as one of the best goal scorers in the world. 

Throw in dominant performances in the UEFA Europa League final, UEFA Super Cup final and on the international level with Colombia, and it will be hard to deny the 26-year-old as a finalist. 

Andres Iniesta

The 2011-12 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award winner has continued to establish himself as the engine that makes both Barcelona and Spain go, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him finally get the respect as the best player in the world.

He doesn't score goals like certain other players on this list, but there is no denying the jaw-dropping passes and runs that Iniesta makes on a daily basis. 

Andrea Pirlo

The veteran won't get a ton of press out of Italy, but it will be difficult for pundits to eliminate him from this list. 

Not only did the playmaking Pirlo instantly establish himself as Juventus' most important player, but he put forth arguably the most impressive non-Spaniard performance for the Euro 2012 finalists in Poland and Ukraine.