Carles Puyol believes it would be a "huge injustice'' if Lionel Messi did not win an unprecedented fifth Ballon d'Or on Monday.
Messi, his Barcelona teammate Neymar and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo are on the shortlist for the biggest individual accolade in world football, which will be handed out at a lavish awards ceremony in Zurich.
Messi is the bookmakers' favourite to take the award from his great rival Ronaldo, who won his third Ballon d'Or gong last season.
The Argentine was the star performer in Barca's five-trophy haul in 2015, scoring 48 goals in the calendar year.
And Puyol, who played alongside the 28-year-old for 10 seasons, thinks his former teammate is by far the best in the field.
"You never know what might end up happening, but it would be a surprise and a huge injustice if Messi was not to win the Ballon d'Or,'' the former Barcelona captain said.
Messi broke new ground in 2012 when he won the award for a fourth time.
Puyol thinks the forward still has plenty of time to go on and win many more awards.
He added: "It will be hard for any other player in the future to win five Ballon d'Ors, and Messi is not going to retire tomorrow so even if he wins [his fifth title] on Monday he can even add more to his name.''
Ronaldo may have won the award 12 months ago, but Real Madrid's indifferent form this year is likely to end up costing him the gong this time around.
The Portuguese scored a remarkable 54 goals in 52 games last year, but his efforts could not help Madrid land either of their big targets -- the Primera Division or the Champions League.
Neymar found the net 43 times last year as part of a deadly triumvirate with Messi and Luis Suarez, but the 23-year-old is a big outsider to win his first Ballon d'Or on Monday.
There are no British players on the shortlist for the 10th successive season, but Mark Sampson could come home with a prize as he is in contention for the best women's team coach following his success with England at the World Cup last summer.
The 33-year-old Welshman led the Lionesses to third place in Canada.
John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale are the only British players on a 55-man shortlist for the FIFPro world XI.