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Jun 3, 2013

Heynckes backs his stars for Ballon d'Or

Jupp Heynckes believes the leading four candidates for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or all belong to the Bayern Munich squad.

• Heynckes hints at move

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has won the award every year since its inception in 2010, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are the only other players to have made the top three.

However, Heynckes' side won the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal this season, and the coach, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola this summer, feels the main contenders all come from his squad.

"I'd like to think that it will be between four players this year," he said after Bayern's 3-2 DFB-Pokal victory over Stuttgart. "For me those players are our two captains, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and then Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller. Those are the four candidates for me who have to sweep the board this year."

Bayern honorary president Franz Beckenbauer agreed that the award should go to one of the club's players.

"That would be deserved and also appropriate since no team dominated as FC Bayern did," he said.

Listing his candidates, he added: "First of all, Franck Ribery for an irresistible season. Then Philipp Lahm as he never had a really bad game. Bastian Schweinsteiger has developed into a personality. Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben are also candidates.

"Messi might generally be the best footballer in the world, but he doesn't qualify for this election."

Ribery told Le Parisien he feels he has "the right to believe" he could win the award this year.

The 30-year-old was only 16th in the vote for Europe's top player in 2008 despite having helped Bayern to a domestic double and being named Bundesliga Player of the Year after a magnificent maiden season in Bavaria.

The 2012-13 campaign surpassed that both in individual and collective terms and, having previously written off his own chances of picking up the award, Ribery is starting to dream of succeeding Messi when the results are announced in January.

"I've had a great season, the best of my career," the France international, who scored ten Bundesliga goals and provided a league-high 14 assists, said. "I hope to be in the hunt at least, in the top five. That would already be pretty good. But with an almost perfect end to the season, I have the right to believe I can do it."

The last Bayern player to win the Ballon d'Or in its original guise was Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in 1981, with none of the club's players winning the FIFA World Player of the Year, which was first awarded in 1991.

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