World's best to be decided

Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi in the running for FIFA Ballon d'Or

Lionel Messi: Is looking to be named best in the world for the third year in a row

Cristiano Ronaldo: The Real Madrid forward enjoyed a goal-laden 2011

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The honour of being recognised as the best player on the planet will be bestowed upon Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Xavi on Monday.

A star-studded ceremony is being readied in Zurich, with the cream of the footballing world set to be in attendance.

The main event of the night is the awarding of the FIFA Ballon d'Or, with the award set to be presented to the man considered to be the best in the business.

Barcelona's mercurial Argentine playmaker Messi is the hot favourite to land the prize for a third year in a row.

Should he pick up the trophy, he will become the first man since Michel Platini to take the title in three successive years.

Real Madrid's prolific forward Ronaldo, who claimed the Ballon d'Or in 2008, will hope to have something to say about that, though, with the Portuguese superstar having enjoyed a goal-laden 2011.

Level

Messi's Camp Nou colleague Xavi cannot be overlooked either, with the ball-playing midfielder considered by many to be the man that makes Spanish and European champions Barca tick.

It would, however, appear that Messi remains the man to beat, with Barcelona defender Gerard Pique of the opinion that he continues to operate on a level all of his own.

"It is clear, Messi, he has been playing at a high level for years," the World Cup winner told La Vanguardia when asked who he believes should take the prize.

"He is driving this team to be one of the best in history. Thanks to him we have won many of the titles that we have in our windows.

"It is a pleasure to have him with us, he plays like when he was 13 years old, except now he does it in a professional way and before the best players.

"We just have to hope that he maintains this level for as long as possible."