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.

Related stories

Ronaldo wins fourth Ballon d'Or award

Neymar extends contract with Barcelona to 2021

Ronaldo, Griezmann and Messi leads FIFA awards shortlist

Hat-trick for Suarez as leaders Barcelona thump Celta 6-1

Ronaldo wins Europe best player award

Barcelona cruise to Super Cup with another defeat of Sevilla

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.