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Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar: Who will win the Ballon d’Or 2015?

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Fifa have announced the three finalists of the 2015 Ballon d’Or award, and there were no surprises as football heavyweights Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were both included for a sixth successive season since the inception of the award, which started after France Football’s Ballon d’Or and the men’s FIFA World Player of the Year award were merged in 2010.

This year, however, Neymar Jr. will also be and joining Ronaldo and teammate Messi on the shortlist, when the winner is announced at a gala in Zurich on January 11 next year.

Messi and Ronaldo have been joined by different players – Xavi (2010, 2011), Andres Iniesta (2012), Frank Ribery (2013) and Manuel Neuer (2014) – as third finalist of the Ballon d’Or over the past five years, but the award has always gone to either the Argentine or the Portuguese.

The Challenger

This season, however, Neymar has a good chance of beating the odds and become the first footballer to defeat Ronaldo and Messi to the award.

The Brazilian is close to the goals tally of the two football giants. Neymar has scored only two fewer goals than Messi and Ronaldo, who have both found the net 48 times this year.

In the second half of last season, Neymar was in prolific form, scoring 26 goals and setting up 4 more from 38 appearances in all competitions (including internationals). This season, however, the Barcelona forward has had even better success, scoring 19 goals and assisting in 9 in just 21 appearances in all competitions.

The former Santos striker may have a more realistic shot at beating Ronaldo and Messi in the Ballon d’Or, if he manages to improve his stats in December.

The Incumbent

Ronaldo, who has claimed back-to-back Ballon d’Or awards the last two years, was in fine form in the second half of the 2014/15 season, scoring 31 and assisting in 10 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions (including internationals).

This season, however, he has not been able to live up to his usual standards, scoring 17 goals and providing 4 assists in 23 appearances in all competitions so far. However, he is still the leading goalscorer this year considering he has played fewer matches than both Messi and Neymar.

Ronaldo may have a chance to retain his title as the world’s best football player, if he manages to improve his goalscoring and assist stats before the Ballon d’Or ceremony in January.

The Usual Suspect

Messi, like Ronaldo, has also been a little below his usual standards, managing only 48 goals in 56 games in all competitions so far this year.

The four-time Ballon d’Or award (he won the first award in 2009, when the Ballon d’Or and the men’s FIFA World Player of the Year accolade had not been merged) managed to do well in the second half of last season, scoring 35 goals and providing 18 assists in 38 games in all competitions, despite him being plagued by persistent injury problems.

This season, the 28-year-old striker has performed only satisfactorily compared to Ronaldo and Neymar, scoring 13 and assisting in 6 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions.

Messi, who still has the whole of December to further improve his goal scoring and other stats, may have an advantage over Ronaldo and Neymar due to him having more assists than either player in 2015.

Ronaldo should probably again win the Ballon d’Or as he has managed to be pretty consistent (if not extraordinary), scoring the same number of goals as Messi (in fewer games, mind you), despite Real Madrid not playing well as a team and there being a managerial change – Raphael Benitez replacing Carlo Ancelotti – at the Bernabeu.

However, realistically, Messi will probably win the award due to his higher assists count in 2015.

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