Lionel Messi leads nominations for Fifa Ballon d'Or
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi were today shortlisted for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or, FIFA and France Football announced.
Messi won the inaugural award last year after FIFA's World Player of the Year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or gong merged.
The Barcelona forward is the favourite once more after another stunning season at the Nou Camp in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions.
Argentinian Messi was Barca's top scorer as Pep Guardiola's men retained the Primera Division title and re-claimed the Champions League trophy with a comprehensive defeat of Manchester United at Wembley.
Xavi was the architect of many of Messi's goals, the Barca veteran maintaining his position as arguably the premier midfielder in world football.
Ronaldo also scored 53 times for Real Madrid as they finished runners-up in Spain and lost out to Barca in the Champions League semi-finals.
Guardiola, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson were shortlisted for the 2011 FIFA Coach of the Year award.
Guardiola's men were again mesmeric in 2011, sweeping all before them with an attractive style of football.
Madrid were their closest challengers, narrowly losing out in the domestic league and in Europe. They did, however, gain a degree of revenge by lifting the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 defeat of the Catalans in Valencia.
In addition to guiding United to the Champions League final, Ferguson also led the Red Devils to a record 19th English championship - the 12th under the Scot's stewardship.
United were also represented in the category for the 2011 goal of the year - the FIFA Puskas award - with Wayne Rooney nominated for his stunning overhead kick against Manchester City last season.
Messi's clever chip and volley over Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the Champions League last 16 last season was also put forward, as was Brazil striker Neymar's incredible solo effort for Santos against Flamengo in July.
The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Zurich on January 9, 2012.
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