Cristiano Ronaldo is favourite to pry open that firm grasp that Lionel Messi holds on the FIFA Ballon d'Or trophy when the winner for the best player of 2013 is announced on Monday in Zurich.
Where to Watch Live
The award ceremony is set for a 6.30 pm local time (11 pm IST) start. Live streaming option is available online HERE for viewers around the world with coverage, beginning with the press conferences, starting at 2 pm local time (6.30 pm IST). US viewers can catch the action unfold on Fox Soccer, with the option to live stream available HERE. Note: Live streaming option provided by FIFA will be Geo Blocked in select countries.
Messi has treated the Ballon d'Or award ceremony as his own personal yay-I-win-it-again playground over the past four years, with Ronaldo looking like the kid that just had his toy taken away.
While all those four years have been undoubtedly Messi's years, with the Barcelona forward just a joy to watch, even without taking into consideration the ridiculous stats that the Argentine has put up, this time, however, it looks like being Ronaldo's year.
The Portuguese has done the business for both club and country, with that magical hat-trick for Portugal in the World Cup playoff second leg against Sweden giving the Real Madrid superstar the edge.
Also in the reckoning is Franck Ribery, who enjoyed an unforgettable season with Bayern Munich. The Frenchman was instrumental in Bayern's treble-winning campaign, with the German side walking away with the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in some style.
"I'm going to carry on being happy whether I win or not," Ribery said. "I'm just pleased to be among the contenders with Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.
Ribery won the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award last year, but is seen as the third favourite.
"Franck should fly to Zurich with a big smile on his face and enjoy it," Ribery's club manager Pep Gurdiola, also Messi's former coach, said. "It's not easy to get that far and he should enjoy the moment. All three are incredible players, and I'm just happy that it's not up to me."
Ronaldo is rightly the favourite after a year which has seen the Portuguese bang in 69 goals, which in turn has helped overshadow the fact that Real Madrid did not win the La Liga or the Champions League.
"Do I deserve to win it? Maybe I do, just like I did last year or two years ago," Ronaldo was quoted as saying by FIFA's official website. "I think I deserve to win the Ballon d'Or every year."
Ronaldo also has plenty of support. "If you ask me, Cristiano Ronaldo is still the best," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. Messi might not like it and he might come up and tell me: 'You never vote for me.' But I didn't vote for him because I think Cristiano deserves it, especially this year."
The vote made by coaches, captains and select journalists from the FIFA member nations could also go to Messi, purely because of the stature that the Argentine holds in the world game. Messi also led Barcelona to the La Liga title in 2013, while also spearheading Argentina's comfortable qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"It's a pleasure to be among the three finalists and it makes me very proud," Messi said. "To my mind team awards are the ones that really count, but it's always nice to be recognised. And if I don't win the Ballon d'Or, then it won't be the end of the world either."
Maybe it will be a tie, and then the award might have to be given to the person that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, always one to induce a chuckle, believes deserves the honour.
"All three deserve to win the Ballon d'Or, but I think it should go to Santa Claus," Ibrahimovic joked.
Monday will tell us the new winner of the Ballon d'Or, with all three, like Ibrahimovic, who should have also arguably been a candidate and is nominated for the Puskas award for that unbelievable bicycle-kick goal against England, said, equally deserving of the honour.
Nominees: Men: Player of the Year: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich, France).
Coach of the Year: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund).
Puskas Award for best goal: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden vs England), Nemanja Matic (Benfica vs Porto), Neymar (Brazil vs Japan).
Women: Player of the Year: Nadine Angerer (Germany), Marta (Brazil), Abby Wambach (United States).
Coach of the Year: Ralf Kellerman (Wolfsburg), Silvia Neid (Germany), Pia Sundhage (Sweden).