Who can break the Messi/Ronaldo monopoly?

Since 2008, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, or FIFA World Player of the Year, has been an exclusive club for two of the greatest players of all-time. Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the award on three occasions, and five-time winner Lionel Messi are the only players to win the prestigious trophy in recent years.

However, all that is about to change and if you’re looking to back a winner, there are more options than ever before. There are plenty of young, talented stars knocking on the door and it’s likely that at least one of those could at least rank alongside Ronaldo and Messi in the final three-man shortlist for 2016. We take a look at a few contenders for future Ballon d’Or awards and give our thoughts on who is most likely to win the trophy.

Neymar (Barcelona)
Excluding Ronaldo and Messi, Neymar is the best player on the planet. The Brazilian is completely unique and has really grown and matured as a player in the last few years. While he still loves to bring out the trickery, he doesn’t try to force things and takes the simple option – something that has actually helped him to stand out at Camp Nou.

On his day, he’s almost unstoppable. Messi, Neymar and Suarez combined for 137 goals in 2015 and the Brazil international bagged 41 of those, as well as 16 assists. Neymar is destined to get his hands on the Ballon d’Or, the only question is: when will he win it? It would take a brave man to back against the Brazil star winning it in the next couple of years.

Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Pogba is perhaps Europe’s brightest young prospect and the Juventus midfielder will win the Ballon d’Or at some point in his career. The France international has been linked with a move to what will be Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at the end of the season and a transfer to the Premier League would do no harm to his Ballon d’Or aspirations.

France are expected to perform well in this summer’s European Championships and Pogba will play a key role for his nation throughout the competition. If they manage to win the tournament on home soil, Pogba will raise his stock as a potential Ballon d’Or winner and will put the likes of City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich on red alert in the transfer window.

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s talisman: At times, Coutinho has carried the Reds through matches and the Brazil international really is a class above his team-mates. Simply put, the 23-year-old is too good for a mid-table Premier League side. Coutinho should be plying his trade at either Barcelona or Real Madrid – he’s THAT good.

In a way, his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or hinge on the summer transfer window. If he moves to Spain, he stands a genuine chance of snatching the award. Coutinho would more than hold his own in La Liga and it could be argued that he would improve further with world class talent around him. Just look at Luis Suarez now...

David de Gea (Manchester United)
Could the Manchester United star become the first goalkeeper to win the award? Possibly so. De Gea is set to become the Spain number one in the near future and on current form, there’s no reason why he cannot lead his nation to another major tournament success.

Unfortunately, he may have to move elsewhere to win team accolades as United are struggling to compete in the Premier League. However, if he continues to shine at Old Trafford, De Gea could well write his name into the record books with a Ballon d’Or award at some stage in the future – whether that’s as a United player or elsewhere.

Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
Antoine Griezmann is widely regarded as one of European football’s top prospects. The forward has been instrumental for Atletico this season, scoring 19 goals in 32 appearances and assisting many more. Ultimately, he’s been central to Atletico’s attacking success.

The likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have all been linked with a summer move for the midfielder but a switch to Paris Saint-Germain may be his greatest chance of winning the Ballon d’Or. PSG are on the rise and will challenge for the Champions League crown soon, which would stand him in great stead for a maiden Ballon d’Or victory.