Messi and Ronaldo face stiff competition

There is no question that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are currently the best players on the planet, with their goal-scoring feats, number of records and natural skill separating them from the rest. Both players have dominated the Ballon D’Or awards since its inception in 2010, with Messi currently the most successful winner with four trophies compared to Ronaldo’s two.

They have left other contenders in their wake by trading places in the top two since 2011, but 2016 could be the year in which the Messi-Ronaldo monopoly is finally broken.

Being regarded as the best player in the world is the ultimate honour in football, and although it is predominately a team game which requires a collective effort in order to be successful rather than depend on individuals, the award is won by one person who stands head and shoulders above the rest during a calendar year. It will prove difficult to separate Messi and Ronaldo who will inevitably be amongst the frontrunners for the 2016 award, but the odds from may point to a number of strong contenders that would be worth backing via a free bet.

Ronaldo, in particular, will fancy his chances of regaining his crown from him old adversary after surpassing the fifty goal mark for the sixth consecutive season – a remarkable feat which merely illustrates a player at the peak of his powers. However, while there is still half of the 2016 calendar year remaining in which everything could change in the race for the Ballon D’Or, there are a number of players who could make a serious claim towards being considered as the best player in the world.

Scoring forty goals on his way to finishing the La Liga season as a title winner and top goalscorer with Barcelona certainly makes for a strong case for Luis Suarez to be crowned the 2016 Ballon D’Or winner. The Uruguayan striker has came on leaps and bounds at the forefront of one of the most feared strike forces in world football, with Neymar and Messi on either side creating the famous “MSN” that have scored over a hundred goals between them. An incredible run of fourteen goals in Barcelona’s last six league fixtures illustrates Suarez’s unerring ability to find the back of the net, and although the 29-year-old has had somewhat of a chequered past, he has certainly made headlines for all the right reasons this season.

Another striker who has enjoyed a remarkable season in front of goal is Thomas Muller, with the 26-year-old turning into a prolific goalscorer for club and country. His Bayern Munich team-mate, Javi Martinez, has backed Muller for the Ballon D’Or award, with the Spain international believing that there is even more to come from a player who has an unerring knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Nine goals in ten appearances during Euro 2016 qualifying proved to be crucial as Germany managed to see off strong competition from Poland, Ireland and Scotland to progress as Group D winners, and although he finished behind Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Bundesliga goalscoring charts, twenty goals is still an impressive figure for a player that has been transformed from a midfielder into a striker.

The Ballon D’Or shortlist has the potential of throwing up a number of darkhorses who could make a real case for winning the award, and punters who may fancy taking up a free bets offer on on a longshot should look no further than Gonzalo Higuain. There were a few eyebrows raised when the Argentina international decided to swap Real Madrid for Napoli back in the summer of 2013, but the 28-year-old has reignited his career to become one of the most in-form strikers in Europe alongside Suarez, Messi and Ronaldo.

Higuain has enjoyed a season to remember, scoring a remarkable thirty-six goals in just thirty-five appearances to break the Serie A goal-scoring record that had stood for sixty-six years. Napoli may have agonisingly missed out on the Scudetto after finishing second behind Juventus, but if Higuain can take his wonderful goal-scoring form into next season, then the striker could put himself in the frame to become a Ballon D’Or winner.