The rivalry between the two great players of this generation gets another airing on Monday as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo vie to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or. The duo are not the only two in contention, though, with Messi’s Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta also included in the nominees.
Messi is the favorite to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive award after a record-breaking year in which he scored a phenomenal 91 goals. Included in that total were 12 strikes for Argentina that helped put to bed criticism of his international form not replicating that which he produces for his club.
But Ronaldo will feel that he also has a strong case. The Portuguese forward, who won the gong for the only time back in 2008, helped break Barcelona’s dominance by leading Real Madrid to the La Liga crown back in May. His year also included some starring performances for Portugal in Euro 2012, although his tournament may ultimately be remembered for his failure to take a penalty before Portugal had been eliminated to Spain on a shootout in the semifinals.
It was at Euro 2012 that the outsider of the three, Iniesta, most pressed his case to scoop the prize. The fleet-footed attacking midfielder was superb throughout the tournament and was the outstanding player for Spain as they secured a third successive major tournament. Iniesta was a surprise winner of UEFA’s Best Player in Europe Award for the 2011/12 season.
The current version of the Ballon D’or is now in its third year after FIFA’s award combined with that given by France Football. The winner will be decided by votes from the coach and captain of each international team as well as a journalist from each country.
As well as the main event, there are plenty of other prizes to be awarded during the ceremony in Zurich.
The year’s best women’s player will also be decided with five-time winner Marta of Brazil going up against United States’ forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Both Americans have a good case to take the prize having each been pivotal in helping their side take home Olympic gold in August. Wambach has continued to be an inspirational leader of the line while Morgan became the year’s breakout star with an incredible 28 goals and 21 assists for the U.S.
Also on the agenda is the prize for Coach of the Year. Spain’s Vicente del Bosque will perhaps be favorite having led his country to the Euro 2012 title. Competition will be provided by Jose Mourinho after the Portuguese claimed the La Liga title. The third nominee, Pep Guardiola, is an outsider to retain the award he won last year having come up short with Barcelona in both the Champions League and La Liga before leaving the job at the end of last season.
The women’s Coach of the Year will be decided between France’s Bruno Bini, Japan’s Norio Sasaki and the now Sweden coach Pia Sundhage based on her continued fine leadership of the U.S. team.
Fans will also get to see who wins the FIFA Puskas Award for the year’s best goal. Strikes from Radamel Falcao, Neymar and Miroslav Stoch are the final nominees.
Finally, there will also be a FIFA Presidential Award and a Fair Play Award.
Where to watch: The gala gets underway at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a free live stream available on FIFA’s YouTube Channel.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.