Lionel Messi could be set to scoop Cristiano Ronaldo yet again.
Bookies William Hill admitted they had “never seen anything like it” after Messi’s odds were slashed for him to win the prestigious Ballon D’Or for a fifth year in a row.
It comes after a news agency claimed Barcelona wizard Messi has won the vote – the results of which will not be announced until the ceremony on January 13.
The same agency, Agencia News, revealed the top five for the award in correct order last year before it was announced, and there are suspicions that it may have been leaked again.
Real Madrid’s Portuguese superstar Ronaldo has been red-hot favourite to finally beat rival Messi to the gong after FIFA extended the voting.
Ronaldo almost single-handedly led Portugal to the World Cup after his stunning performance in their play-off victory and captains, coaches and media were allowed an extra two weeks to cast their vote following the two-legged tie with Sweden.
But bookies have seen a dramatic shift in odds since the claim that Messi could scoop Ronaldo yet again.
William Hill spokesman Tony Kenny said: “It seems the momentum is behind Messi. The market has changed over the last few days. Ronaldo remains the 4/6 favourite – although he has drifted from 4/11. Messi has come in the betting from 4/1 into 11/10 – this is market forces and punter support – which is probably linked to the Agencia story. Ribery is out to 10/1 having been even money favourite in June.
“It’s a really strange market – and certainly we’ve never seen anything like it.”
Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery, the hero of the Germans’ Champions League Final triumph, is in third, according to Agencia.
Then comes Andres Iniesta, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic finishes fifth.
It would be a major surprise if Ronaldo was overlooked again. He has scored 32 goals already this season, including 14 in his last seven games.
Messi bagged 56 goals last term, but an injury hit season has seen his appearances restricted and he has managed to find the net just 14 times.
Ronaldo has been left fuming in the past as Messi has taken all of the plaudits.
Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter appears to favour the Argentinian – Blatter annoyed Ronaldo recently by claiming he “spends more time at the hairdresser” when asked to compare him with Messi.
UEFA president Michel Platini has claimed the vote this year for the trophy will be the “hardest in history.”
Platini said: “It seems that the favourites are Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ribery. The first two are very good and Ribery is the one who has won everything.
“They are three great players. The choice of the Ballon d’Or this year is the most difficult in the history of the trophy. The voting extension was a FIFA decision, though it happened to coincide with Portugal reaching the World Cup thanks to three goals from Ronaldo against Sweden.”