Lionel Messi, who once more set the footballing world alight in 2012, is favourite to claim yet another FIFA Ballon d'Or on Monday. The Argentine bagged an incredible 91 goals in the calendar year, breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 85 by notching 79 for Barcelona and 12 for his national side.
"I'm delighted for him," the great German player said at the time. "He is an incredible player, gigantic. He's such a nice and modest professional."
After his unprecedented year, Messi may pip Barcelona teammate Andes Iniesta and Portugal's Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of world's best player when the three-man list is whittled to one at the FIFA gala in Zurich. Voting had been open to selected coaches, players and journalists.
Iniesta also had a wonderful year, starring at the heart of Spain's midfield at the European Championships, where they claimed their third successive major tournament by trouncing Italy 4-0 in the decider.
The winner of the award in 2008, Ronaldo has faced constant taunts over being inferior to the Argentine, but did help Real Madrid to last season's Spanish title ahead of Barcelona - netting 46 times - before starring for Portugal at the European Championships. However, controversy followed him at the tournament after he was the unused fifth penalty taker in the semi-final loss to Spain.
Since its inception in 1956 by France Football magazine - initially as a Europe-only award before it was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010 - only Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten have won the Ballon d'Or three times. Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo both lifted the FIFA equivalent on three occasions, but a fourth title for Messi would put him out on his own.
Other awards down for decision include the men's coaching award, for which Spain's Vicente del Bosque is among the front runners, along with Real's Jose Mourinho and his former Barcelona rival Pep Guardiola, who has since taken a break from the game.
On the day, a World XI line-up will also be chosen by the FIFPro group of players' unions, representing some 50,000 footballers across the globe. The US gold medallists from the 2012 London Olympics dominate the women's awards, with Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan up against Marta of Brazil, who has claimed the crown on five occasions.