The attention of football fans the world over will shift to Zurich on 7 January 2013, when the eagerly awaited FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 Gala takes place at the Congress House. The event will honour the best players and coaches for 2012.
In the second of our two-part series, FIFA.com has compiled another series of thought-provoking statements from leading figures in the game. In the first instalment three weeks ago, we talked to former football stars and sporting personalities, and figureheads from show business and politics. In part two, we mainly focus on the current stars from the leading leagues around the world, canvassing their opinions in a series of exclusive interviews.
"There’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi continue to be a class apart. Nowadays, when you watch Real Madrid or Barcelona, there are definitely other players with the potential to mix things up a little, but right now those two are still very different to everyone else."
"I think it would be good if the Ballon d'Or went to Iniesta. He genuinely deserves it, because he's been unbelievable both for Spain and Barcelona. Obviously, Messi and Ronaldo are exceptional. But let's take the example of Messi: he only gets on the ball thanks to Iniesta! Messi isn't the only player out there. Iniesta is always watching his back. Coach of the year? I'd vote for Mourinho, even though he's having a tough time at the moment. I'm a huge fan of the man and of Real Madrid!"
Anthony Le Tallec
"I'm thinking about four or five players. My top five would be Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi and Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic has won the league with every team he's played for, and physically he's unbelievably strong. Xavi is a fantastic footballer with the ability to dictate a game. Iniesta has magnificent skill and vision. Ronaldo's attitude is impressive, because he has a winning mentality and wants to show the world he's still the best. And Messi? Is there anything he can’t do? Once again, he's scored countless goals this year and he’s poised to break a record - in fact, he almost breaks records every week. You have to say Messi was the standout player, even in this Barcelona team. Best of luck to all five players! As for coach of the year, I'd say Jose Mourinho, ‘The Special One’. Beating Barcelona to the league title is extremely tough. And he's won the title in every league where he's worked, so I think he deserves the award."
"I would vote for Falcao, because he's my team-mate. I'm amazed by him. We have him to thank for Atletico [Madrid] making real progress in recent years. But Messi is the big favourite. There's no doubt he's the best. No other candidate has his ability."
"I think I’d give [the award for best coach] to Diego Simeone, as he’s had a great season. But this [decision] is also a very big responsibility. I’d choose El Cholo because I know him. He’s helped us a great deal and I’m very grateful to him for everything. I don’t know, haven’t worked with and haven’t really followed any of the other coaches, who I’m sure deserve to win it too."
"Lionel Messi has already won it three times, and he'll definitely be crowned for the fourth time in a row. I don't see anyone stopping him, except maybe Xavi and Iniesta, who've been consistently excellent for many years now, and are fantastic for Spain. But everyone respects Messi. What he does out on the field is simply magic. He scores from free-kicks and from anywhere in fact, whenever he wants. On top of that, he's a prolific provider, because he’s no egomaniac. I'd reward him for that with a fourth Ballon d'Or. The lad just loves working with the ball, and the individual awards don't really interest him. All he wants is to pull on the shirt and lace his boots, get out on to the pitch and show what he can do. Messi lets his boots do the talking, he's not interested in the sideshows."
"Obviously, everyone's talking about Messi, but I reckon he's already won so many prizes, there can't be any room left in his trophy cabinet at home. So I’d pick Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s the type of player who can settle a match in any number of different ways from a variety of attacking situations. He's deserved another award for a long time now."
"It's business as usual. We all know the two players it'll be between again - probably (laughs). I'm predicting Messi - again!"
"I'd say Messi is the best player at the moment. Barcelona have outstanding individuals who combine to form a superb team. It means good results for the team, but at the same time, the players’ individual class makes its mark. Cristiano Ronaldo is also a pivotal player who scores lots of goals. These two are the best in the world at the moment, but I'd vote for Messi."