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Nov 29, 2012

Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo on Ballon d'Or list

Andres Iniesta will compete with favourites Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or award.

• World XI shortlist of 55

The 23-man list for the prize, which has been a merger of the European Footballer of the Year and the World Player of the Year since 2010, has been whittled down to a three-man shortlist.

Barcelona star Messi, 25, is the current holder of the award, having won it for a second time in a row last year, pipping Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentina forward also won the final FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or awards before their merger, and is therefore bidding to be named the world's best football for the fourth year running.

Messi has been in incredible form for his club over the last 12 months, and he needs just three more goals to reach Gerd Muller's record of 85 strikes in a calendar year that was set in 1972.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, helped Madrid claim the Liga title in the 2011-12 season, with the Portugal striker scoring 46 goals on their path to glory.

Barcelona's Iniesta helped Spain win Euro 2012 when he was named as the tournament's best player. He previously finished as runner-up for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010.

There had been speculation that Radamel Falcao would make it onto the list for the first time, but Iniesta beat the Colombia and Atletico Madrid striker into the top three.

Iniesta's presence continues Barcelona's dominance of the revamped award in its short existence. The inaugural award in 2010 saw Barca trio Messi, Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez shorltisted, while last year Xavi was the one joining his club-mate and Ronaldo in the running for the prize.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said: "It shows how strong football in Spain is. We have seen again what they did at the Euros and it will be interesting to see what happens in the Confederations Cup.''

It was a similar story of Iberian dominance when the nominees for the FIFA World Coach of the Year award were announced. Spain national team boss Vicente del Bosque was nominated for a year in which his team retained their European Championship title, Real Madrid's Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho got the nod after leading Real Madrid the glory in La Liga and Pep Guardiola completed the shortlist despite quiitting his job at Barcelona in May having only won the Copa del Rey last term.

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