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Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer rival Cristiano Ronaldo for Ballon d’Or

Cristiano Ronaldo, odds-on 1/7 with Coral for the Ballon d’Or, guided Real Madrid to European glory last season before representing Portugal at the World Cup in Brazil last summer.

The Portuguese superstar is a massive favourite to pick up the 2014 Ballon d’Or award, ahead of fellow La Liga forward Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, having had a sensationally successful season with Los Blancos last term.

This year’s Ballon d’Or winner will be announced at the annual FIFA Gala in Zurich on January 12, with Ronaldo leading the chase for football’s coveted award.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Madrid’s magnificent attacker has been at the pinnacle of world football in the past 12 months, helping his Bernabeu side to claim a record 10th Champions League trophy, 12 years after their last triumph.

Portugal’s prolific goalscorer netted 55 times for club and country in 2014, including a strike in the Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid, and finished last season with an extraordinary 56 goals in 49 outings in all competitions.

Remarkable Ronaldo was rewarded with the FIFA Ballon d’Or last year, his first time to have claimed the title given to the world’s best player from the previous calendar year. He won the old gong in 2008. The Portugal icon will be hoping his goalscoring records have merited him in receiving a second consecutive Ballon d’Or title.

Lionel Messi
Since the merging of the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010, Barcelona’s fantastic forward has picked up the honour on three occasions, and is 14/1 to win yet again this year.

Majestic Messi will be aiming to gain a fourth Ballon d’Or title, but looks likely to be runner-up to his La Liga counterpart Ronaldo for a second consecutive year. However, the Argentine attacker had an incredible 2014, becoming the all-time goalscorer in both La Liga and the Champions League.

The Argentina World Cup star was also named player of the tournament in Brazil last summer, after captaining his South American side to the final in Rio De Janeiro. Despite a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Germany at the Maracana, Messi was given the accolade for striking four times in seven appearances at the tournament, including a 91st minute thunderbolt against Iran in the group stages.

Manuel Neuer
The Munich and Germany goalkeeper aided his country in stopping Messi’s men from capturing a third ever World Cup trophy, keeping Argentina at bay for 113 minutes before Mario Gotze snatched a late Die Mannschaft triumph.

Neuer is a major outsider to become the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin in 1963 to be crowned the world’s best footballer, with Ronaldo and Messi leading the way based on their phenomenal goalscoring attributes.

However, Munich’s number one has been backed by World Cup winning legend Diego Maradona, with the Argentina icon favouring Neuer for the award for his outstanding attitude.

“My favourite for the Ballon d’Or? Neither Messi, nor Ronaldo,” said Maradona. “For me, Neuer is the one who deserves it the most. I feel that Messi and Ronaldo have taken things a bit too relaxed in 2014.”

Neuer will be aiming to follow up his World Cup triumph with this year’s Ballon d’Or accolade, with the big German 9/2 to claim the personal award.