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Ballon d’Or 2014: Pros and cons of 23 magnificent men

The nominations for the 2014 Ballon d’Or are in. FIFA have announced a 23-man shortlist of superstars competing for the title of World Player of the Year.

Who made the cut? What are the pros and cons of awarding this honour to such a stellar pool of talent? Coral’s football experts act as your guide.

Gareth Bale
Wales and Real Madrid winger is a Champions League winner, having scored in last year’s final. He plays second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu, though, so a 40/1 outsider.

Karim Benzema
France frontman has played some of the best football of his career for club Real and country this term. Again, he is overshadowed by Ronaldo.

Diego Costa
Fired Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title this year before moving to Chelsea. Troubled by injuries, however, and Brazilian-born Spain striker flopped badly at the World Cup. A 50/1 outsider.

Thibaut Courtois
Belgium goalie also helped Atletico end El Clasico dominance of Spanish football, and scooped the Zamora Trophy. Stoppers seldom get recognition for the Ballon d’Or, though.

Angel Di Maria
Argentine attacker was Man of the Match in Champions League final for Real and impressed on international duty. Missed World Cup final through injury.

Mario Gotze
Helped Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga and DFB Pokal double before netting the winner in World Cup final. Despite this, teammate Thomas Muller more fancied.

Eden Hazard
Chelsea’s Player of the Year for 2013/14 was top drawer last term. Since, he’s been overshadowed by Costa and Cesc Fabregas at Stamford Bridge, and failed to replicate form for Belgium.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sweden star hit 30 Ligue 1 goals as PSG dominated French football again. Zlatan failed to fire his country to the World Cup finals, though.

Andres Iniesta
Technically gifted pass-master is a hugely consistent player for Barcelona. Spain’s shocking World Cup means he’ll miss out on the award.

Toni Kroos
Exploits with Bayern and Germany earned midfield maestro move to Madrid. Deep-lying players another underrated commodity in the minds of those voting for award.

Philipp Lahm
Versatile and exceptionally good at full back or in midfield. If the award were not traditionally given to forward players, internationally retired World Cup-winning captain would win (25/1).

Javier Mascherano
Tough in the tackle and unafraid of dirty work at centre back or in the holding role. Lack of trophies for Barca means he’ll miss out on recognition.

Lionel Messi
Argentina captain oozes class in withdrawn forward spot. Won World Cup Golden Ball despite failing to turn up in the knockout phase. A 6/1 shot.

Thomas Muller
In that bracket of athletic and annoyingly good footballer. Always in the right place at the right time, won trophies with club and country, but what future for proper strikers if he wins? A 20/1 chance.

Manuel Neuer
Sweeper keeper big part of Bayern and Germany’s success this year, but overconfidence has led to recent errors. Goalies don’t get enough recognition.

Neymar
Brazil talisman lit up World Cup until he was injured. Form for Barcelona not quite as phenomenal as when in a Samba Boys shirt. A 25/1 shot.

Paul Pogba
Recipient of World Cup’s Best Young Player award has helped Juventus to three Serie A titles in a row. One to watch for the future as others ahead of him for top gong.

Sergio Ramos
Netted equaliser that forced extra time for Real in the Champions League final. Calamitous defending with Spain at the World Cup rules him out.

Arjen Robben
Dutch master seems to get better with age, helping Munich to a domestic double and Netherlands to third place at the World Cup. Perceived to go to ground too easily. A 33/1 shot.

James Rodriguez
Colombian attacker scooped World Cup Golden Boot and made big money to Madrid from Monaco. UEFA Super Cup only trophy earned, however, despite his promise, so a 40/1 outsider.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Top scorer in La Liga and the Champions League, enough said. Poor displays at the World Cup for Portugal mind, although a worthy odds-on 1/6 favourite.

Bastian Schweinsteiger
New Germany skipper an unsung hero for club and country, but has struggled with injuries a lot this year, and therefore unlikely to make the final shortlist of 10.

Yaya Toure
Broke 20-goal barrier as Manchester City lifted the Premier League title. Didn’t replicate form for Ivory Coast, though, and don’t forget Birthday Cake-gate.