By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The top footballer from Brazil, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, commonly known as Neymar, stands to be named world footballer of the year if he wins the FIFA Ballon d’Or award in Zurich, Switzerland, today (January 11th). Competing against Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, the winner will be announced during a televised gala this evening.
Neymar, who plays for Barcelona, faces stiff competition from the two other players. Messi, who also plays for Barcelona, and Ronaldo, for Real Madrid, have dominated the award finishing first and second every year for four years and in six of the past seven years. Messi is the favorite to win.
Neymar however has done well to beat Luis Suárez, a Uruguayan player at Barcelona, into the running. Even if he fails to win this year, at 23 Neymar is likely to make the shortlist again. Messi and Ronaldo, aged 28 and 30 respectively, are edging closer to retirement and are increasingly dogged by injuries.
“The trend is in the future, Messi and Ronaldo are no longer in contention, and Neymar will be the protagonist,” said former international player and runner-up in the Ballon d’Or in 1997, Roberto Carlos.
A list of 23 male candidates and ten coaches is complied by the FIFA Football Committee and experts from France Football. They take into account the performance of the players and coaches between November 22nd 2014 and November 20th 2015, and vote regardless of players’ club or nationality.
On November 30th the three players who had received the most votes were announced. The award also recognizes the best female player and women’s coach. The ceremony begins at 6:30 PM CET.