No real surprise in the final, three-man shortlist FIFA have released regarding the potential winner of the 2012 Ballon d’Or award: Either Andres Iniesta, already the UEFA player of the year recipient and Lionel Messi from Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.

In terms of statistics and on field production, there’s no real argument: It’s either going to be Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and to be fair, when it comes to individual accomplishments, it’s going to be Messi. The sport was never really about statistics till these two came along, and Messi has won the award for three years in a row now.

Despite Ronaldo taking the league title last season, most would argue that Messi was the better player over the last 12 months. Of course it depends on which side of the fence you’re on: Real Madrid or Barcelona, with almost everyone outside of Spain having some sort of opinion on the matter. Messi, just to set things straight, has scored 82 goals over the last 11 months, set on breaking Gerd Muller’s record of 85.

This season? Barcelona so far have been the better team than Real Madrid, 11 points ahead of their biggest rivals in the La Liga; Messi has been better than Ronaldo, scoring 26 goals in all competitions to Ronaldo’s 19. Some should argue (correctly) that goals aren’t the only important thing to be taken into account. Those same people, backing Ronaldo, said the exact opposite when he finished on top of the scoring charts while Messi won the league and the Champions League.

Last time these 3 were on the same stage

So maybe it doesn’t have to do with stats or titles. Andres Iniesta never puts up any extraordinary numbers, but he was fantastic for Spain during their triumphant Euro 2012 campaign  probably earning him the UEFA award to the surprise of many people. Seeing the face of Ronaldo getting beaten again by someone other than Messi was priceless if you’re into that sort of thing. There won’t be any disappointment, at least on the outside, by both Messi or Iniesta if one of them wins the award at the expense of his club teammate.

Iniesta won the Euro 2012 best player award as well, and has already finished behind Messi in the FIFA Ballon d’Or before, in 2010. Maybe the biggest title of all this season will push him towards another surprising individual award, as there are many that claim that the only difference between him and Messi isn’t their ability, but where they play on the pitch. Sounds a bit simplistic to me, ignoring the fact that Iniesta just isn’t a good finisher like Messi or Ronaldo; he’s probably the better passer of the three.

Prediction? Ronaldo won’t win, as usual. Lionel Messi isn’t as exciting as Ronaldo or unpredictable as Iniesta, but just because we’ve gotten used to him being this good doesn’t mean he isn’t the best. It just means he’s been this good, better than anyone else, for quite some time. This time, despite it not being a statistical sport, the numbers aren’t lying. Lionel Messi deserves to win the award yet another time.

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