SAO PAULO (AP) — Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta are the finalists for FIFA’s world player of the year award.
They were picked from a list of 23 candidates for this year’s Ballon d’Or, with Messi looking to become the first player to win the award four times. The Argentina and Barcelona playmaker won the award the last three years.
“I think they are perfect picks. There is no doubt these players are among the best,” said former Brazil great Ronaldo, a three-time award winner. “Messi and Ronaldo are really the only ones with a chance of winning, that’s how it’s been recently.”
The winner will be announced in Switzerland on Jan. 7. The only other players to have won the FIFA award three times are Ronaldo and former France great Zinedine Zidane.
The finalists for the women’s world player award are five-time winner Marta and America duo Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach.
They led the United States to its third straight Olympic gold medal in London. Wambach made the shortlist last year, finishing third in the voting.
“Women’s football was at its best this year,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, noting the record crowds attending the matches at the London Games.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho were in the running for the world coach of the year award. The women’s coach of the year award nominees are France’s Bruno Bini, Japan’s Norio Sasaki and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who led the team to the gold at the 2012 Games.
The Puskas Award for the best goal of the year will be presented to Radamel Falcao, Neymar or Miroslav Stoch.
The 25-year-old Messi won his second Golden Boot award this year for scoring the most goals in Europe’s domestic leagues last season. He has scored 82 goals this calendar year, putting him only three shy of Gerd Mueller’s record.
Messi won last year’s Ballon d’Or prize over Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a team leading 46 goals last season for Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo — the winner in 2008 — was one of the six nominees from Real Madrid, along with Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, Iker Casillas, Mesut Oezil and Sergio Ramos. In addition to Messi and Iniesta, the 23-player list also included Barcelona players Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets.
Iniesta finished second to Messi in the 2010 vote.
Seven Spain internationals made the 23-name list and all three in the shortlist play in the Spanish league.
“This shows how strong the football is in Spain, not only in the clubs but also the national team,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said. “We have a very strong (Spanish) football system in place.”
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Brazil forward Neymar were also in the running. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was the only English player on the list, while United teammate Robin van Persie also was a candidate after being the Premier League’s leading scorer last season for Arsenal.
Juventus veteran Gianluigi Buffon was among the three goalkeepers in the list, along with Casillas and Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich.
Marta is looking for an unprecedented sixth award.
“It’s a great honor to be in the running again,” Marta said.
Neymar won the 2011 goal of the year award and is looking to retain the prize courtesy of his goal for Santos against Internacional on March 7, when he scored following a maze of dribbling from mid-field. Falcao is in the running for his overhead kick on May 19 in Atletico Madrid’s game against America de Cali, while Stoch is in the final list for his superb hook shot from the edge of the box for Fenerbahce on March 3.
Voting is by national team coaches and captains, and journalists invited by co-organizer “France Football” magazine.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni
More Related Stories
- How Dan Savage lost it
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11