Lionel Messi will have to beat out Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo in order to add another Ballon d'Or Award to his trophy case. FIFA announced the three finalists on Thursday.
Messi has won the coveted award each of the past three years, including both since it was combined with the FIFA World Player of the Year Award. Let's take a look at the chance each superstar has of winning the honor this time around.
1. Lionel Messi
Even though Ronaldo and Iniesta have both had terrific years, Messi is the favorite once again. He continues to score goals at an unmatched rate as he attempts to chase down Gerd Muller's record of 85 in a calendar year. He needs four more to break it.
Every time the 25-year-old Argentine forward steps on the pitch, he makes it harder to argue that the best player in the world is anybody but him. There are moments during every match where the opponent's back line is at his mercy.
The only thing that could work against him is voter fatigue. Whenever one player sweeps major awards, there are voters who start searching for a reason to give another player the spotlight instead. Messi's performance makes that a tough task, though.
Chance of victory: 70 percent
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Wherever Messi is, Ronaldo is sure to follow close behind, as has been the case so often in recent years. The one advantage Real Madrid's top scorer does have is the fact the Blancos ended Barca's run atop La Liga earlier in the year.
It's a league title that wouldn't have been possible without Ronaldo's awe-inspiring play up front. He netted 46 goals during the championship-winning season. He also excelled in European play and international action.
Alas, it's an individual award, so it's unclear how much weight the voters put into Madrid's title. It would have to play a significant role if Ronaldo was going to unseat Messi, and it's more likely they will lean toward personal accomplishments.
Chance of victory: 20 percent
3. Andres Iniesta
Iniesta is the long shot. He has a better chance of costing Messi the award by splitting votes with his teammate than actually winning himself. That's not to say he didn't have another remarkable season for Barcelona, though.
The Spanish stalwart helped La Roja win Euro 2012 and was named the tournament's top player. That alone gives him a chance—albeit a small one—to upset Messi and Ronaldo. Again, it all comes down to what the voters emphasize.
An argument could also be made that Messi's huge numbers wouldn't have been possible without Iniesta's strong play in the midfield. Ultimately, however, it's likely a two-player race between Messi and Ronaldo with Messi owning the edge.
Chance of victory: 10 percent