Excitement is mounting across the footballing world, with lively discussions and intense debates now a daily occurrence in every corner of the globe. The reason for all this anticipation is simple: the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 Gala is set to take place at Zurich’s Kongresshaus on Monday 11 January.

Last year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo faces fierce competition from Lionel Messi and Neymar in the final three-man shortlist to determine the 2015 world player of the year. It seems that everyone has their own view about which of the three superstars is the most deserving of football's most prestigious individual accolade.

The beautiful game’s biggest names have also been speculating and expressing their own opinions about the vote. Over the past few weeks FIFA.com has interviewed former recipients of the award, countless retired stars and several well-known personalities from other sports for exclusive interviews about the FIFA Ballon d’Or, while we have also been asking you to name your personal favourites.

You could say ‘joint winners Ronaldo and Messi’, because the two of them have been on a different level to everyone.

Kevin Keegan

FIFA World Player of the Year 2007 Kaka believes the two-man race between three-time winner Ronaldo and four-time recipient Messi could soon be over. “Neymar has improved a lot since he’s gone to play in Europe,” said the Brazilian in praise of his compatriot. “His game is a lot more mature. Now it’s a matter of time until he takes first place.”

For former world champions Lothar Matthaus and Xavi, however, the decision is obvious. “His goal tally, spectacular play and the successes he has celebrated with Barcelona speak for themselves,” explained Matthaus, who led Germany to FIFA World Cup™ glory in 1990 before being named FIFA World Player of the Year at the 1991 Gala. “For me it would be a huge surprise if Messi didn’t win.”

“There’s no comparison in my book – Messi has total command of every aspect of the game,” said Xavi, who won the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ with Spain, when speaking with FIFA.com. “He’s the best at everything and he shows that in every match. He deserves this Ballon d’Or.” Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise to learn many of football’s big names are backing Ronaldo to defend his title in our exclusive interviews. Among them is former Germany goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn, who finished second in the 2002 FIFA World Player of the Year vote. “I think Ronaldo will win again, a man who calls himself the world’s best player – and who can blame him?”

Former England star Kevin Keegan shared a completely different point of view when discussing the topic with FIFA.com. With a wink he explained: “I always say: ‘Just think how lucky we are to have two players like this’. It doesn’t happen very often and really they should have shared it for the last four years,” he suggested. “You could say ‘joint winners Ronaldo and Messi’, because the two of them have been on a different level to everyone.”

Click here to enjoy all of these interviews as part of our build-up to the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015. Happy reading!