Though there are still over two months to go before the FIFA Ballon d’Or for 2012 is awarded, speculation is already hotting up over who will win the coveted prize. Journalists, fans and players have all been staking the case of their favourites for the crown, even before 29 November’s announcement of the final three-man shortlist.

In conversation with from Buenos Aires, where he currently captains River Plate, former France striker David Trezeguet gave his views and predicted that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would once again be leading the running come January 2013’s Gala. A FIFA World Cup™ winner in 1998, Trezeguet gave his expert opinion on the stellar duo’s outstanding qualities, their fierce battle for top honours and their major differences. David, on the basis of your own lengthy experience in the game, how important is winning an award like the FIFA Ballon d’Or?
David Trezeguet: It’s a great recognition of your efforts, that’s for sure. But let’s be clear about this: the Ballon d’Or used to be decided by journalists alone. For that reason players felt the FIFA [World Player of the Year] award was more important, because that was voted for by players and coaches. It was more highly regarded. Of course, the Ballon d’Or itself was very prestigious, but the FIFA award meant much more to the players.

There’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi continue to be a class apart. They’re both players of the highest level and I think they share the same ambition: to outdo the other.

David Trezeguet

Who’s your favourite to win this time around?
There’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi continue to be a class apart. Nowadays, when you watch Real Madrid or Barcelona, there are definitely other players with the potential to mix things up a little, but right now those two are still very different to everyone else.

Do you favour one over the other? Is it really fair to compare them?
They’re different kinds of players, both physically and in terms of their individual characteristics. Cristiano is a more physical and athletic type of player. Messi, on the other hand, is physically very good too but technically he’s got a very South American – and not at all European – flavour to his game. They’re both players of the highest level and I think they share the same ambition: to outdo the other.

How far can they continue to develop?
They’ve not stopped growing as players yet. They keep proving that, scoring incredible numbers of goals and breaking records. That’s what keeps their fire burning. That and their determination to win the [FIFA] Ballon d’Or each year, which is virtually a two-horse race at the moment. The difference lies in the number of titles each of them wins at club level.

Though you clearly feel that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have the edge, is there are any other player in with a chance of contesting the big prize?
Not long ago [Andres] Iniesta was given an award (In August, Iniesta won the 2011/12 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award), and he’s a player who also deserved to be honoured, as does Xavi. And well, I had the opportunity to play alongside [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, who’s another of those players that could be in the mix. Falcao is too, going on how he’s performing for Atletico Madrid. But nowadays even winning two or three trophies isn’t enough, because Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo keep winning more titles too. When it comes down to it, there are some very good players around, but the truth is those two are still a class apart - whether it’s because they play for the best teams in Europe or because they carry on winning both individual and team honours. It’s very difficult to get away from that fact. While they continue to hit these heights it’s impossible to imagine a player in any other position winning it, like defender [Fabio] Cannavaro did.