FIFA have announced their 23-player shortlist for the 2013 Ballon d’Or award, pretty much being another name for best footballer in the world this year, with Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Franck Ribery (France) being the favorites to win it and are also the representatives of their country.
Yaya Toure of Manchester City is the only player from his club on this list, but is also the only African player nominated for the award as well. It’s also quite thin when it comes to goalkeepers and defensive players – only Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer and Thiago Silva are included among the nominees.
Gareth Bale, Wales
So fat it’s been up and down for Bale this past year. He had a wonderful, career-best season with Tottenham, scoring 26 goals in 44 matches for the club before shipping off to Real Madrid for a new transfer fee record. Over there, he’s mostly been injured.
Edinson Cavani, Uruguay
Another fantastic year for one of the more consistent players in European football over the last few years. He scored 38 goals in 43 matches for Napoli, triggering a €64 million move to PSG, scoring 8 goals in 14 matches for the club so far, leading the French league.
Radamel Falcao, Colombia
Falcao helped Colombia get their first ticket to the World Cup since 1998, but he also led Atletico Madrid back into the Champions League, scoring 34 goals in 40 matches for the club, which led to the inevitable transfer, joining AS Monaco for €60 million, scoring 8 goals for them so far.
Eden Hazard, Belgium
Just like Falcao, he’s bringing back his national team to the World Cup after a very long time. Hazard enjoyed a mostly successful debut season with Chelsea in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals and adding 20 assists. He’s doing just as well under a new manager with 5 goals and 2 assists so far in all competitions.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
The gift that keeps on giving. Ibrahimovic helped Sweden finish second in their qualifying group, which means a playoff against Portugal. In club form he’s been fantastic as usual, scoring more goals than anyone in Ligue 1 last season with 30 league goals. He already has 11 goals in all competitions this year following his four goal performance against Anderlecht.
Andres Iniesta, Spain
With Iniesta, it’s not the numbers. He doesn’t score much (no goals so far this season), but if you watch him play, it’s easy to see why he’s constantly referred to as one of the best midfielders in the world, doing splendidly for Barcelona and La Roja.
Philipp Lahm, Germany
From being the best full back in the world Lahm is experiencing a change this year, playing as the lone defensive midfielder under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. It has taken him a month or so to get accustomed to the new position, but he’s doing quite well there also, at least until he’s moved back to the flank.
Robert Lewandowski, Poland
There are a lot of questions regarding Lewandowski’s next team. He refused to sign a new deal with Dortmund, and all signs point towards Bayern Munich next year, but no one really knows. There’s nothing vague about his scoring ability: Already 10 goals in all competitions this season, following a year with 36 goals.
Lionel Messi, Argentina
With Messi, it’s the numbers, and much more. He led Argentina to the first place in the South American group, while helping Barcelona win another league title. He finished with 60 goals in 50 matches last season, and is up to 12 of 12 this year so far.
Thomas Muller, Germany
There are few better all-around players like Thomas Muller in European football, with the ability to play in almost any position in the front line. Might have been Bayern’s best player in their perfect season last year, scoring 24 goals in all competitions and adding 9 more so far this season.
Manuel Neuer, Germany
Has a tendency to get a bit rash and complacent at times, but Bayern Munich didn’t concede a single goal in four matches against Juventus and Barcelona, not to mention allowing only 18 goals last season in the Bundesliga. Neuer was a huge part of that.
Had a fantastic Confederations Cup with 4 goals in 5 matches, helping Brazil win the title, while doing brilliantly with Santos as well. At Barcelona he isn’t scoring at Messi-pace, but he has two huge goals against both Madrid teams to show his importance to the team.
Mesut Ozil, Germany
It’s rare to see a player leaving Real Madrid at the height of his power, but there seem to be quite a few people regretting selling him to Arsenal, with his arrival turning the Gunners into (Finally) legitimate contenders in the Premier League, scoring 3 goals and adding 5 assists so far this season.
Andrea Pirlo, Italy
Pirlo is showing signs of slowing down early on this season, but he remains the single most important player for both the Italian national team and Juventus, winning a second consecutive league title with the Bianconeri six months ago.
Franck Ribery, France
Just won the first major award of the season, beating Messi and Ronaldo to it, and believes he’s good enough to come out with the most prestigious of them all in a couple of months. He scored 11 goals in all competitions last year for Bayern in their perfect season; he has already scored 8 this season, immensely enjoying playing for Guardiola.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands
It’s hard to understand what Robben is doing on the list, because he only returned late last season to help Bayern Munich clinch their titles. However, at FIFA, they love players who shine in important matches, and damn the rest of the season. His redeeming goal in the Champions League final was enough to put him here.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Second place with Real Madrid, Champions League semifinal, second place in the group with Portugal. Same ol’, same ol’ for Ronaldo. He scored 55 goals in 55 matches last season, adding 15 in 13 so far this year.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany
After Bayern completed their treble last year, he was voted as their best player in a historic season. The more global voters probably don’t see it that way, but it’s hard to deny his importance to the club which is evident usually when he’s not playing.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay
The bad boy of global football just might be the best forward in the Premier League. He has scored 36 goals on his last 49 appearances for Liverpool, and added 8 goals in 11 matches this year for Uruguay, although it wasn’t enough for automatic qualification into the World Cup.
Thiago Silva, Brazil
Just might be the best central defender in the world at the moment, doing brilliantly for PSG and the national team, winning the Confederations Cup last summer with them.
Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast
The best player on a side filled with expensive international stars. Toure scored nine goals in 42 matches last season for Manchester City, and has made an impressive start to this year with 6 goals in 13 matches. He’s also on the brink of completing a successful playoff with his team, making it into his third World Cup.
Robin van Persie, Netherlands
Won his first championship with Manchester United while winning the Golden Boot in the Premier League for a second consecutive year, and he’s also turned himself into the top Dutch scorer of all-time with the national team, leaving Patrick Kluivert behind.
Like his mate Iniesta, numbers aren’t his strong suit, but it’s clear to see why he’s still carrying the torch for a rare breed of players still remaining in global football, and being the best of them.