The Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi leads the way from Cristiano Ronaldo

After another astonishing year in 2011, Lionel Messi is the bookmakers favourite to claim his third consecutive Ballon d'Or ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi
The Fifa Ballon D’or ceremony takes place on Monday evening and will reward the player who is deemed to have had the best year in world football from a shortlist of three star performers.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the second favourite for the Fifa Ballon D’Or. You can back the Real Madrid striker to pick up the gong at 9/1 (10.0) with Stan James but that would be quite a show a faith – the player himself won’t even be in attendance. Both Ronaldo and his coach Jose Mourinho have decided against attending the event in Zurich.

It’s tempting to conclude that the Real Madrid contingent can see the writing on the wall. Indeed, Ronaldo has already expressed a preference for the European Golden Shoe. “The Ballon d'Or is the result of people's opinions, since it's based on votes,” said the Madrid star. “On the other hand, this [Golden Shoe] award doesn't depend on the votes from anyone.”

A more cynical soul might argue that Ronaldo would be more interested in the Ballon D’Or were it not for the existence of a certain Lionel Messi. The little Argentinian magician has had another remarkable year with his all-conquering Barcelona side, scoring more than a goal a game for the club over the past two seasons.

Messi is odds on to pick up a third consecutive Ballon D’Or and even though the 1/14 (1.07) available won’t give you huge returns, it looks a solid investment considering his chances of receiving the award. Messi’s Barcelona team mate Xavi makes up the three nominees and is a longshot to collect the prize at 16/1 (17.0) with Stan James.

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Adam Bate is a professional freelance journalist who specialises in football and betting. He is editor of GhostGoal which can be found here - you can also follow Adam on Twitter