A World Cup win with Argentina in 2014 could be crucial to Lionel Messi's chances of winning back the FIFA Ballon D'Or.
When the Argentine magician won his fourth straight Ballon D'Or award in 2012, it seemed as though we would be watching him shuffle up to collect the trophy in a garish suit for the next decade or so.
When Messi is healthy and in-form (and if he is healthy, he is rarely out of form), not even the magnificent Cristiano Ronaldo can match his impact on the pitch.
But injuries caught up with little Lionel in 2013, disrupting his season and ensuring his statistics were slightly less impressive than in previous years.
A 75 percent effective Messi would normally be enough to secure the Ballon D'Or, but his injuries woes coincided with a hugely impressive individual performance over the course of the season by Ronaldo, who refused to let the prize slip away for a fifth year in a row.
And the Portuguese shows no signs of slowing up through 2014.
It is up to Messi, then, to wrestle the honor of being named the world's best player back from him.
The Brazil World Cup is the battleground where the Ballon D'Or is probably going to be won and lost.
As long as both stay fit, there is little doubt Messi and Ronaldo will each bang in a ridiculous amount of goals for their club sides over the next year.
Should one player score five or 10 goals more than the other over the course of 12 months, it is unlikely to affect the voting to any great extent.
Club trophies may have a bearing on things, though as Frank Ribery pointed out to TZ (via The Guardian), they can also count for little:
I won everything, with the team and individually.
Ronaldo won nothing.
I feel I had earned this award.
It's all politics.
Traditionally, in a World Cup year, the biggest factor in deciding the Ballon D'Or is the World Cup tournament itself.
The 2010 voting went against the grain, with Messi taking out the gong despite having a relatively quiet time of it in South Africa.
The world champions in that year, Spain, played a brand of football that was completely reliant on the team dynamic that it became too hard to single out any one individual as the man to direct all voting toward.
Going back in recent history, though, the winner in a World Cup year has always had an outstanding tournament.
Fabio Cannavaro won in 2006, Brazilian Ronaldo in 2002, Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and Hristo Stoichkov in 1994. The first three names were all world champions in those years, while Stoichkov was the driving force behind Bulgaria's unlikely run to the semi-finals in the USA.
Argentina might not have to lift the trophy in Brazil for Messi to claim the Ballon D'Or. Going deep into the tournament on the back of some strong performances from the Barcelona man might be sufficient.
There is always the chance, though, that another player could have a dazzling World Cup and secure the prize for himself.
If Brazil were to win on home soil thanks to Neymar's heroics, he would likely become the Ballon D'Or favorite.
If Argentina are crowned champions, however, "La Pulga's" chances would skyrocket.
Messi has proved himself to be the most selfless of players.
The last thing he will be thinking about heading into the World Cup will be personal awards.
But if he can achieve the thing he wants most in football, to lead Argentina to glory on the biggest stage, the Ballon D'Or will be back in his possession within a few short months.
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