Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?

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Suarez, Neymar and Messi see the ice-cream man. Credit: PA

Yesterday’s announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and A.N. Other are the nominations for the 2015 Ballon d’Or will have come as a surprise to precisely zero football fans on this great planet we live on. Since 2008 (that’s seven awards for those who can’t do maths), the FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon d’Or (as it was renamed in 2010) has been won by either Ronaldo or Messi.

Four of the prestigious trophies belong to the sublime Argentine, who has finished either first or second every year for the past eight awards, whilst ex-Red Devil Ronaldo has three. He has finished in the top three every year except 2010 in the same span as Messi.

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Ronaldo realises he won’t win another Ballon d’Or. Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

The third nominee has never really been in with a shout of winning and no one has consistently reached the same heights that these two deities of football has. Since 2008, there have been five other players who have made up the top three: Fernando Torres (when he was actually able to hit a cow’s bottom with a banjo) Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribery.

This year, the third prize will be going to Brazil’s Neymar. One who has always split opinion, it may now be time to recognise that he is one of the world’s best and at just 23 years of age, the Ballon d’Or is his to lose in the next ten years.

But should the third prize be going to a different part of Barcelona’s attacking trio, Luis Suarez? Let’s take a look at club and country stats for the four players in 2015:

Messi Ronaldo Neymar Suarez
Games 56 52 59 52
Goals 48 48 45 40
Assists 24 14 9 21

Barça’s MSN attack force, so named because of Luis Enrique’s passion for the Microsoft messaging system that anyone born in the ’90s used, is quite staggering. Messi averages 0.85 goals per game, whilst Suarez sits on 0.77 with Neymar at 0.76. Eclipsing them all is Ronaldo though, who hits the back of the net 0.92 times per game.

Goals are great. Everyone loves scoring goals; hitting the ball into the top corner from 25 yards, tapping home after a drool-inducing team goal, or scoring a bicycle kick in the last minute to give your team all three points. They’re pretty great. But the mark of a true striker, especially in the best teams in the world, comes in his decision-making. More specifically, his assists.

Messi leads the way with 24 assists, an average of 0.43 per game. However he doesn’t really count since his feet were blessed by a sorcerer as a young child which enables him to find space and make passes that should not be possible. Ronaldo and Neymar are both lagging behind as they combined for just 23 in 2015, making Suarez is the key player here.

21 assists in 52 games gives him an average of 0.4 per game, and makes him the complete striker. This was evident during his time at Liverpool, where he recorded 23 assists for the Reds in the Premier League whilst scoring 69 times in just 110 matches.

The ever-hungry Uruguayan has tasted victory in 40 of his 52 games this year, giving him an astounding win percentage of 83%, matched only by Neymar. In contrast, Messi’s is 77% and Ronaldo’s is at a substandard 63%. Tim Sherwood will be having words.

In truth, if anyone should make way for Suarez it should be Ronaldo. The Portu-geezer just doesn’t have enough influence in his side, and using Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema as an excuse just doesn’t fly since MSN work so well together. Ronaldo is the most individual player out there, especially when it comes to international football (although with the lack of quality in Portugal’s side this is hardly a surprise), but he’s just not had a good enough 2015 to retain the Ballon d’Or and make it three in a row.

Obviously Messi will win. At time of writing, the little genius’ best odds at Oddschecker.com is 1/8 at Betway. His shortest are 1/14. Ronaldo’s shortest is 7/1 with William Hill (his longest is 12/1), whilst Neymar’s worst is out at 8/1 with various sites. His longest also stands at 12s.

In a perfect world, Suarez would claim second whilst Neymar would be third. But as this is not that, Ronaldo is likely to bag runner-up with Neymar third.

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