Zürich/Frankfurt - And then there were three. Franck Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Lionel Messi yet again? The FIFA Ballon d'Or has been the source of heated debate since the initial shortlist was whittled down to just three names.
On Monday 13 January, the suspense will be over. FIFA president Joseph Blatter will take to the stage in Zürich's swish Kongresshaus to announce who was the best player on the planet in 2013. Whether or not Ribery follows his UEFA Best Player in Europe award with the global version, German football could still be celebrating for the first time in decades.
Indeed, alongside Ribery, former FC Bayern coach and treble winner Jupp Heynckes, as well as current Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp are both in the running for one of the eight prizes on offer, while no fewer than seven German internationals have a chance of featuring in the "Team of the Year" after Joachim Löw's gifted grafters missed out in recent years.
"I think I've got a big chance," said Ribery on fcb.de. "The team and I have done really well in 2013, but let's see what happens. All I can do is wait." Wait to become the first ever FC Bayern player to rule the world. He, captain Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will all be making the trip to Switzerland from Doha on Sunday in anticipation of Monday's ceremony.
International lobby lacking
Playing to the tune of Ribery, the record German champions won the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and the UEFA Champions League last May/June, while they have added the UEFA Supercup and in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign. "Franck has won an extraordinary number of titles and we're delighted that he plays for FC Bayern, and we all wish him the best of luck in becoming the first Bayern player to be crowned the world's best," said club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
"But they are all on a par and, in the end, it will come down to the views of different continents." That, as Rummenigge hinted, could be where RIbery has ground to make up. While his two rivals Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF/69 goals in 2013) and Messi (FC Barcelona/45) are renowned the world over, with replica shirts sold in souqs and markets from Tunisia to Taiwan, Ribery lacks a similar lobby.
Heynckes need not have any similar fears, however. His title is untouchable, according to Bayern's sporting director Matthias Sammer. "It would be the logical consequence of his lifetime achievements," he said. "He has made history." Klopp and Sir Alex Ferguson are regarded as his leading challengers.
On the list of candidates to form the Team of the Year, the German names of Neuer, Lahm, Jerome Boateng, (all FC Bayern), Mats Hummels, Marco Reus (both Dortmund) and Mesut Özil (Arsenal FC) feature, while the Bundesliga is further represented by Ribery, Arjen Robben, Dante, Mario Mandzukic, and Robert Lewandowski.