Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta will contest the 2012 FIFA Ballon D’Or after the initial 23-man shortlist was narrowed down to just three today.
Ronaldo and Messi are expected to go head to head for the award after stunning campaigns in La Liga last time round, while Iniesta is a relative outsider despite being named player of the tournament for Euro 2012 and picking up the Best Player in Europe award ahead of his rivals for the Ballon D’Or earlier this season.
Messi leads the way after a stunning 2011/12, which saw him shatter the record for most goals scored in a single European season, and brilliant start to the new campaign.
His tally last term included 50 goals in La Liga which helped him claim the Golden Boot while he also set a new mark for most goals scored in a single Champions League campaign.
The Barcelona forward is currently chasing another record for the most goals scored in a single calendar year, and is just three goals shy of equaling Gerd Muller’s mark of 85 set in 1972. The 25-year-old has the chance to set a new milestone as he goes in search of a historic 4th straight Ballon D'Or award.
While Ronaldo has been forced to stand by and watch Messi claim all manner of records, it was the Portuguese winger who had the last laugh as he helped Real Madrid claim the Spanish league crown from their rivals for the first time in four years last season.
The former Manchester United man also enjoyed a brilliant year in front of goal, notching 46 league goals to become the first player to surpass 40 goals in back to back seasons.
Iniesta meanwhile stormed the international stage to help Spain become the first team to win three consecutive major international tournament at Euro 2012 last summer, and in the process claimed UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award.
Of the 20 players to have missed the cut for the final shortlist, five came from the Premier League while ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba earned a nomination for his efforts in helping Chelsea claim their first Champions League trophy.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure all received nods, while Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney were also on the initial list.
The award will be presented at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 7.