As most football fans will know the scope of the Ballon d’Or, originally the award given to the European Footballer of the Year was extended last year to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or which is now awarded to the player considered by both FIFA and UEFA to be the best in the world.
The 2010 Ballon d’Or was awarded to Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina, who had also won the final Ballon d’Or in 2009 and is again among the 23 players named this week in this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist.
Eric Abidal (France), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Karim Benzema (France), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Dani Alves (Brazil), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Nani (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), David Villa (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Xavi (Spain).
This list will be shortened to just three names on December 5th with the result being announced in Zurich on January 9th 2012.
Despite being regarded as the best league in the world, the Premier League has received only four nominations and one of them is the recent arrival to the league at Manchester City, Sergio Aguero. The other three are Wayne Rooney and Nani, both of Manchester United and Luis Suarez of Liverpool. In fact, Rooney is the only English player among the 23!
Needless to say, the nominations have a huge bias towards attacking players, with only two defenders, Eric Abidal and Danny Alvez and one goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, making the shortlist.
It was three players from FC Barcelona who occupied the top three 12 months ago, with Messi winning ahead of teammates Andres Iniesta and Xabi Hernandez and many believe that the same outcome could easily occur again this year after Barcelona once again dominated European football and unlike 2010, the nominated players from the Catalan club can now boast a Champions League winners medal to the case for winning the award which has been around since 1956. In fact, it would be a major surprise should Messi not win for a third consecutive year and bookmakers are offering odds of just 1/7 that he wins again.
Also awarded on the night is the award for FIFA Coach of the Year and on that shortlist are three Premier League nominees, but one of those, Andre Villas-Boas, has been nominated for his performance in winning the Europa League last season with FC Porto before he made his move to Chelsea. The others are Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, although quite why Wenger has found himself on the shortlist after a trophy less six years at the Emirates is a mystery.
The Coach award looks set to be a straight battle between Spain’s National Team Manager, Vincente Del Bosque and Pep Guardiola, Head Coach of FC Barcelona with only Oscar Tabarez, Head Coach of Uruguay, a possibility to upset the Spanish duo after his superb job in guiding his country to an unexpected victory in the Copa America.