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2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or Rankings: It's Messi Versus Ronaldo, Again.

Sharpen your proverbial knives, unabashedly flaunt your club allegiances and, if you’re Javier Mascherano, pray that Roy Hodgson has spent the year canvassing for your cause. It’s the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist!

Even in the face of Sepp Blatter and his lackeys being suspended for 90 days, nothing can stop soccer’s elite from a night of merrymaking and joy at FIFA’s annual self-aggrandizing gala. Well, apart from the fact that there can only be one winner.

Accordingly, we’re dealing with 23 of the most hyper-competitive, egocentric and highly motivated humans on the face of the planet. These are not the world’s most gracious losers.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Will Ronaldo be repeating this face come January? Photo: @Wilsonsoonny | Twitter

Of the 23 names to make the shortlist, here’s our countdown of the ten most likely candidates to waltz home with the “Golden Ball,” the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or.

The Top 10 Candidates: 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or

10. Eden Hazard

Belgium - Chelsea

Hazard cemented his place among the game's elite over the course of the 2014-15 season. At his best, Hazard demonstrates an unplayability that can only be matched by Lionel Messi.

His propensity to skip past would-be tacklers, draw fouls and immediately ask for the ball again is also reminiscent of the Argentinean wizard. With four goals in European qualifying, Hazard has been the main man for, according to FIFA, the World’s third best national team. Naturally, he's in our top ten for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or.

9. Arturo Vidal

Chile - Juventus/Bayern Munich

While his 2015 Copa America began in utter disgrace, his performances on the field for both Chile and Juventus are now the stuff of legend. His year included a Serie A title, a UEFA Champions League runners-up medal and the first ever Copa America triumph for his native Chile.

His performances, including the Copa America Final Man of the Match , saw Bayern Munich pay $40 million for his services this summer.

8. Yaya Toure

Ivory Coast - Manchester City

Let’s get this out of the way: Yaya Toure wasn’t at his domineering best for Manchester City over the course of the last year. Statistically, his numbers were basically half of what they’d been when City marched to the title in 2013-14.

However, the four-time African Footballer of the Year was able to finally deliver the African Cup of Nations to the Ivory Coast, a competition that the nation thoroughly desired and deserved. His stunning strike in the semis against DR Congo, as well as his assured penalty in the final, were the hallmarks of a consummate performer.

7. Paul Pogba

France - Juventus

The most promising central midfielder in world football, Paul Pogba has it all. Combining strength, skill, defensive qualities and growing goal-scoring abilities, Pogba was a key player for Juventus’ Double-winning side. The Turin club will be hell-bent on keeping his services while Barcelona and Real Madrid hover.

6. Robert Lewandowski

Poland - Bayern Munich

Possibly the deadliest center forward in the world, Robert Lewandowski is a man on fire. With 13 goals throughout the EURO 2016 qualifiers, he was named the top player by UEFA. He’s shattering records in Germany, collecting Polish Footballer of the Year awards and seemingly just getting warmed up.

5. Alexis Sanchez

Chile - Arsenal

The best player in England on recent form, Alexis Sanchez also delivered one of 2015’s greatest moments with his deft Panenka winning penalty against Argentina in the 2015 Copa America Final.

Glorious. The passion and desire he displays in every match have instantly endeared him to Arsenal faithful. He drove the Gunners to FA Cup glory, was named the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year and is only just settling in English football. Competition beware.

4. Luis Suarez

Uruguay - FC Barcelona

While his third instance of biting an opposing player ruled him out of the Copa America, Suarez still experienced a scintillating 2014-15 season. He scored the go-ahead goal in the 2015 Champions League Final, amassing seven goals total in the competition, and proved to be a vital cog in the Barcelona trifecta.

While he scored less goals than Messi and Neymar, his ability to play unselfishly may be a key component in making it all gel.

3. Neymar

Brazil - FC Barcelona

Neymar’s red card against Colombia in the Copa America was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect year for the Brazilian. He was the joint top scorer, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, in the Champions League and his scored 39 goals across all competitions. He’s off to an incredibly impressive start in La Liga again this year, reveling in the continued absence of Messi.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal - Real Madrid

Ronaldo, quite simply, is more machine than man. While his new movie may try to paint a more intimate, humane portrait, make no mistake, he's been impeccably designed by the universe to dominant world football.

His numbers for Real Madrid and Portugal are absurd, he’s essentially rewriting the European record books and seemingly presented with an award before every match at the Bernabeu.

1. Lionel Messi

Argentina - FC Barcelona

The hands down favorite for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi pips Ronaldo to the award in the same way that Barcelona beat Real Madrid to every title in 2014-15. He’s feared by every other footballer that doesn’t want to end up on the wrong end of a highlight reel (see video below), and he continues to pull out the most jaw-dropping moments in all of sports.

Honestly, is there even a debate this year?

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