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By ESPN Staff

Ronaldo on brink of world award

Cristiano Ronaldo is the favourite of five candidates to walk away with the FIFA World Player of the Year award on Monday.

Manchester United winger Ronaldo, who has already picked up the FIFPro and Ballon d'Or awards this season, has been chosen along with Fernando Torres, Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and current holder Kaka.

After scoring 42 goals en route to Champions League and Premier League titles last season Ronaldo seems set to improve on his third place last year.

The closest challenger appears to be Barcelona's Messi, who despite an average season with his club last season has been on blistering form since winning gold at the Beijing Olympics, helping Barca storm to a 10-point lead at the top of the Primera Liga before the winter break.

Spain duo Xavi and Torres feature after playing key roles in their country's success at Euro 2008, while Kaka is among the candidates again despite a under par season last year with AC Milan.

The award will be made at FIFA's world player gala in Zurich, the first time the award has been held in January.

It is also the first time five finalists have been chosen as opposed to three.

Each national team manager and player is given a vote for their player of the year from a shortlist released by FIFA.

Kaka, Messi and Ronaldo made up last year's top three. No player from Spain or Argentina has ever won the award, while French midfielder Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian striker Ronaldo both won it three times and Ronaldinho has won twice.

The women's award has also been extended to five candidates, and this year features an English player for the first time.

Kelly Smith will be up against 2007 and 2008 winner Marta and her Brazilian compatriot Cristiane, as well as Germany's Nadine Angerer and three-time winner Birgit Prinz.

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