Lionel Messi’s injury-affected year could count against him in the Ballon d’Or voting, according to the Barcelona attacker's teammate Xavi Hernandez.
While Messi has taken the last four Ballon d'Or prizes by large margins, this year’s voting could be closer. Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery is the favourite after winning the Champions League last season, although France’s recent struggles could have a detrimental effect, while Cristiano Ronaldo is making a late burst with a run of goals for Real Madrid and Portugal.
Xavi -- who is himself on this year’s 23-man longlist and an outsider to appear on the five-man shortlist to be announced in early December -- told Sport that there was no doubt Messi remained the world’s best player.
However, he accepted that the Argentina international -- currently sidelined with his fifth injury in six months -- had not had the best of years.
“[Messi] has already won four in a row,” Xavi said. “Maybe those who vote will think about that. Maybe he deserves another. If we look at who is the best player in the world, it is Messi, no doubt. Now, if we talk about the best player in 2013, then I will admit there is some debate. Winning four in a row might damage him when it comes to the voting.”
Bayern also have the favourite for the FIFA Coach of the Year award, with the Bundesliga side’s treble-winning ex-boss Jupp Heynckes a long way ahead of rivals including Sir Alex Ferguson, Juergen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Rafael Benitez and Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, himself also a candidate and the 2012 winner, told COPE radio that the German had his vote, along with Benitez and Scolari, who also won trophies last season.
“I voted for Heynckes, for Rafa Benitez because he is Spanish and the Europa League champion, and Scolari, who won the Confederations Cup,” Del Bosque said. “I base it on trophies, which is the most objective.”
Del Bosque said he had voted for the two Spanish players on the 23-man list -- Xavi and Andres Iniesta -- but did not disclose who else had got his vote.
He said: “I voted for the two Spanish players, and will leave the third as incognito.”