FIFA and France Football have published a list of 23 players chosen as candidates for the prestigious 2013 Ballon d'Or award.
Following are those 23 names as selected by FIFA's Football Committee and a group of experts from France Football. The three names with the most votes will be announced in early December, with the winner due to be crowned in January.
|Ballon d'Or Candidates|
|Gareth Bale (Wales)||Mesut Ozil (Germany)|
|Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)||Andrea Pirlo (Italy)|
|Radamel Falcao (Colombia)||Franck Ribery (France)|
|Eden Hazard (Belgium)||Arjen Robben (Netherlands)|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)||Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)|
|Andres Iniesta (Spain)||Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)|
|Philipp Lahm (Germany)||Luis Suarez (Uruguay)|
|Robert Lewandowski (Poland)||Thiago Silva (Brazil)|
|Lionel Messi (Argentina)||Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)|
|Thomas Muller (Germany)||Robin van Persie (Netherlands)|
|Manuel Neuer (Germany)||Xavi (Spain)|
In terms of representatives, the Premier League has five names from last season, with no English name making the grade.
Gareth Bale is the lone British addition, although his summer transfer to Real Madrid reduces the amount of current Premier League names.
La Liga has six names, while the Bundesliga, buoyed by the Champions League success of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, has seven who plied their trade in Germany last season.
Serie A and Ligue 1 boast two representatives each, with Neymar the only inclusion based on some non-European form with Santos.
Lionel Messi has, of course, romped home with this title—formally known as FIFA World Player of the Year—at the past four ceremonies, with Cristiano Ronaldo his closest challenger for three of those titles. If you listen to Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti speaking to TV program El Larguero (via Goal.com), now is Ronaldo's time to bring home the award:
It's Cristiano's moment to win it ahead of Messi and Ribery. He has surprised me the most with his professionalism. He's very serious, he has amazing attention to detail. It's that which helps us the most - he doesn't just score.
Over the past three years, the top three have all come from La Liga, although Franck Ribery could well disturb that consistency this time, after an impressive 12 months. Squawka Football recently emphasized that point:
Bayern won the treble last season, augmenting the credentials of many of that squad, but Ribery has arguably been the most prominent of all.
His appearance in his side's recent 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin meant he's been unbeaten in a Bayern shirt during this entire calendar year. In fact, his last defeat was 39 appearances ago, in April 2012—a new record in the Bundesliga, as per the league website. He told Spanish site Marca that he would love to win the award:
Of course I want to win it! I would like to get it because of all the work in my career, coming through the bad times and because I think I'm at my peak. If I win it, it will be a victory for my family, my wife and for Bayern. For our great year.
Since Ribery's last loss, his side have collected the DFB Cup, the DFL Supercup, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Bundesliga title, with the Frenchman playing an integral role in each triumph.
He's the most likely name to break up the La Liga bias and potentially even disrupt the dominance of Messi.