On Monday the winner of the 2015 Ballon d’Or will be announced, with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo on the three-man shortlist.
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the award in recent years, with one of the two winning the accolade for the past seven years, but there is a feeling in some quarters that this might just be the year that trend ends.
We’ve profiled the three contenders…
Honours: Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey, FIFA World Club Cup
Neymar has emerged as a serious contender, with the Brazilian becoming a more and more prominent member of Barcelona’s side, displaying particular brilliance when Messi was injured last year. On the international front, Neymar may be left to rue a petulant performance in the Copa America when he was unnecessarily sent off when his team needed him most.
Trophies: Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey, FIFA World Club Cup
Messi is the overwhelming favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for the fifth time, an unprecedented achievement. The diminutive Argentina international wove his magic in 2015, bouncing back from a slightly disappointing 2014 campaign. Messi powered Barca to a plethora of trophies, but fell just short with Argentina – not for the first time – as Gerardo Martino’s side lost to Chile in the final. While Messi managed just one goal in the tournament, he was named Man of the Match in four out of five matches.
Club: Real Madrid
Ronaldo walked away with the trophy last after comfortably seeing off the challenge of Messi and Germany and Bayern München keeper Manuel Neuer. The Real Madrid ace has failed to replicate the incredible standards he set in 2014, and could fail to finish in the top two for the first time since 2010. A lack of trophies is hard to ignore, but more so is the growing feeling that Ronaldo is no longer influential in big games.