After two years in which Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the Ballon d'Or trophy for being world player of the year, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is a strong contender to regain the title and win his fifth award overall at a glamorous ceremony in Zurich on Monday.
Messi bagged a hat-trick for Barcelona in Saturday's 4-0 crushing of Granada although with the votes already cast, it will make no difference to the 2015 award decision in which he competes against Barca team-mate Neymar and Real Madrid's Ronaldo.
"For Messi, Saturday’s performance was a brilliant dress rehearsal for Monday’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony, when it is widely expected that he will hoist the trophy for the fifth time in his career," the Barcelona website purred in its match report.
His boss Luis Enrique, himself short-listed for coach of the year, heaped praise on his talisman.
“The fact that he can outdo himself day after day is tied to his personality as the number one player in the world, and as a player who is not just unique, but once-in-a-lifetime," he said.
“But above all, his team-oriented outlook motivates him year after year. All he wants to do is win titles and help the team; at the same time, on an individual level, his objective is to keep breaking records."
Messi's four previous Ballon D'Ors came 2009-2012 before a slight dip in form and the improvement of Ronaldo saw the 2013-14 awards go to the Portuguese.
There was some disappointment for Messi in 2015 in the shape of a Copa America final lost to hosts Chile on a penalty shoot-out and a couple of months missed through injury.
But another Spanish treble and being the key member of the Barcelona's attacking trio alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez suggests he is back to his best.
Neymar is seeking to earn Brazil a first Ballon d'Or since Kaka took the award while with AC Milan in 2007.
However, the 23-year-old has reportedly admitted he does not expect to win and has publicly spoken of the honour at making the three-man final shortlist alongside Messi and Ronaldo.
While the Barca duo have displayed modesty regarding the individual award, Ronaldo infamously let out a whoop of delight when previously named winner.
Many onlookers disapprove of such blatant desire for individual recognition but Ronaldo, the only member of the nominated trio in his 30s, may be left disappointed on this occasion.
He did outscore both Messi and Neymar in the Spanish League last season but that was the only honour he collected as Barca swept all before them.
And no matter how impressive an individual is, football remains a game where success is measured by the results of the whole team.
Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 22:21
Monday, June 27, 2016 - 09:02