Let’s face it: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are just a cut – maybe even ten cuts – above the rest.
The two football players, widely regarded as the two best in the galaxy, are once again engaged in another battle worthy of its own El Clasico. This time, though, they’re not fighting on the pitch but, rather, for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award that’s given to the world’s best football player of 2012.
Oddsmakers have picked Messi, the Argentinian striker playing for FC Barcelona, as the odds-on favorite to win his third Ballon d’Or award with 5/6 odds after yet another scintillating year that saw him score a jaw-dropping 73 goals in club play this season. On the flip side, the brash Ronaldo, the only man that claim to play to possess Messi’s otherworldly skill, has been priced at 5/2 odds to win his first Ballon d’Or award since 2008. Ronaldo’s 60 club goals this season is a little short of what Messi managed to accomplish, but he does have this one huge advantage over his rival: Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s team, won the 2011-2012 La Liga title, besting Messi’s FC Barcelona squad in one of the more dramatic seasons in recent history. Plus, he was mighty impressive at the 2012 Euros, leading Portugal to the semi-finals before falling to eventual champions Spain.
Despite having 23 nominees for the award, the Ballon d’Or is really down to both Messi and Ronaldo, although Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta could stake his own claim to the award after leading Spain to the Euro 2012 title where he also won Player of the Tournament honors. Iniesta is realistically the only player that can upset both Messi and Ronaldo for the award and his 5/1 odds seems to suggest that Iniesta has an outside chance of capping of his remarkable 2012 year with the honor of being called the best football player in the world.
Should you not be convinced that either of these three will walk away with the Ballon d’Or, there are 20 other players short-listed for the award, although they’re extremely long odds will tell you that it’s probably best to stay away from them unless you have some money to burn and/or one of those players is a relative of yours.
In any case, the “likeliest” of the long shots is Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas (40/1), who, on any other year where Messi and Ronaldo didn’t play in, would make a pretty strong case after he played an instrumental role in winning La Liga with Real Madrid and the 2012 Euros with Spain. Meanwhile, Italy’s Andrea Pirlo, Colombia’s Radamel Falco, and Spain’s Xavi Hernandez have all been priced at 50/1 odds. Picking any of the three to win the Ballon d’Or would already be tantamount to hitting the lottery. But if you’re really feeling lucky – or you have the gift of foresight – Italy’s Mario Balotelli, the Netherlands’ Robin Van Persie, Argentina’s Sergio Kun Aguero, and England’s Wayne Rooney are all priced at 100/1 odds.
Ultimately, though, this feels like a two-man race and while it appears that Lionel Messi has the inside track, we’re certainly not sleeping on Ronaldo besting his rival again. In terms of value, El Hefe Ronaldo’s 5/2 odds seems to be the best value you can have.