At this time of year, the focus turns to the Ballon d'Or and with the 23-man list released earlier today, discussion is rife on social media as to who should and should not be up for nomination for the individual awards event of the year. The nominees will always spark debate, which is why we at WhoScored.com, using our unique rating system, have formulated the Ballon d'WhoScored. For consistency, only players who have made at least 20 appearances from January 1st 2014 across their respective league, European competition and the World Cup have been considered.
Given their Champions League success, Real Madrid are unsurprisingly well represented in the 23-man list. Six of the 23 players helped Los Blancos to their La Decima triumph in May and have taken their blistering form into the new season, despite swappng Ángel Di María for World Cup star James Rodríguez. The recent 3-1 win over Barcelona - the Blaugrana's first defeat in La Liga this campaign - has helped propel Madrid to within 1 point of top spot, with Cristiano Ronaldo in particular spearheading their title pursuit. After his penalty against Barcelona, the Portuguese has now scored the most goals (29) in Europe's top five leagues in 2014.
However, his rating in the calendar year (8.43) is marginally lower than that of rival Lionel Messi (8.48). While Ronaldo has been in blistering form for Madrid, his performances for Portugal at the 2014 World Cup were underwhelming. Messi, on the other hand, answered some of his critics at Brazil 2014, dragging Argentina to the final, with his WhoScored rating the best of all players at the competition (8.52). While he could not guide Argentina to glory, Messi has been as consistent as ever in the calendar year, as his WhoScored rating suggests.
Despite Borussia Dortmund's recent poor form, Marco Reus has been the third best rated player in 2014 so far. The attacker is the highest rated performer to not have been included in FIFA's Ballon d'Or shortlist and is interestingly one of only two German players - the other Max Kruse - to have made the Ballon d'WhoScored 23-man list. Five World Cup winners have been nominated for the Ballon d'Or, but their lack of inclusion in the WhoScored equivalent points more towards an impressive team effort in South America rather than individual brilliance shining through a la Messi.
An interesting inclusion in WhoScored's 23-man list is that of Roberto Firmino. The Hoffenheim star is the only Brazilian to make the cut this year and was rewarded for his club efforts with international recognition, featuring in recently reappointed head coach Dunga's second Brazil squad. Worryingly for English and Italian football aficionados, however, there are no representatives from either nation, which should be cause for concern for both nations on the back of disappointing World Cups in which both fell at the first hurdle.
Argentina, meanwhile, have the most representatives on the list, with Di María and Carlos Tévez joining Messi in the Ballon d'WhoScored nominations. Di María was imperative in Madrid's Champions League win and has continued his fine form for Manchester United this season, while some feel Argentina may have secured World Cup glory had he been available for the final. Tévez, who recently returned to the national fold, has impressed for Juventus this calendar year and he is spearheading their attack to great effect in their defence of the Serie A title and in Europe in 2015. With the 2015 Copa América looming, and so many Argentine's featuring in the Ballon d'WhoScored, the onus will be on the likes of Messi, Di María and Tévez, amongst others, to secure glory in Chile next summer.
Finally, what does stand out are the inclusions of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Luka Modric. With attackers often winning the plaudits for their goals or assists, the hard work of the central midfielders is often overlooked, but the trio have performed above and beyond for their respective teams in 2014. However, it is Messi who has once again excelled this calendar year, much as he did in 2013. Ronaldo has played out of his skin for Madrid this season, but Messi's World Cup performances place him at the top of the 2014 Ballon d'WhoScored nominations.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com