Ronaldo and Messi together at last year's ceremony .

2015 Ballon d'Or finalists: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar's best moments

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar have been named as the three finalists for the 2015 Ballon d'Or.

The trio, who are the lone survivors from the initial 23-man longlist released by FIFA, will fight it out for the right to be named football's best player over the past year at an awards ceremony in Zurich in January.

The nominees for the Women's World Player of the Year, World Coach of the Year for Women's Football and the Puskas Award for the best goal of the year were also revealed.

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Messi is the clear favourite to win his fifth Ballon d'Or after a stunning 2014/15 season in which he helped Barcelona claim a historic treble, which culminated in victory against Juventus in the Champions League final.

Neymar was unable to do something similar with Brazil because of injury but the 23-year-old has emerged as a genuine world star at the Nou Camp alongside Messi and Luis Suarez - and that trio set a new record with 122 goals between them last term.

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Last but not least is Cristiano Ronaldo, who despite his lack of silverware at the Bernabeu, was still able to maintain his incredible goal record with 61 goals in 54 appearances.

All three can stake a legitimate claim to being the best in the world - and here are the three moments that defined each of the nominees' season

Lionel Messi

Messi's talent can't simply be confined to simple statistics, and despite the sheer weight of goals he bagged last term, there's one moment that stands out above the rest; it was more than a goal, than a statistic; it was a moment for the history books.

It was the goal that launched a thousand memes and meant Jerome Boateng's place in infamy was secure. Barcelona were seeking to lay down a marker in the first leg of their semi-final showdown against a Bayern team that humiliated them with a 7-0 aggregate thrashing at the same stage in 2013. Pep Guardiola's return to face his former side for the first time added spice to an already fiery occasion.

The match was a tense affair until Messi broke the deadlock after 77 minutes -  180 seconds later, he broke the internet.

Picking up the ball just outside Bayern's box, the Argentinian genius left Boateng on his backside before weighing his chip shot perfectly, just beyond the desperate reach of Rafinha and into the back of the net. A moment of pure perfection.


Perhaps the most defining moment of Neymar's career to date came just a few weeks ago, not long before the voting for this year's Ballon d'Or took place.

On the back of heartbreak in Brazil last year and in Messi's absence through injury over the past few months, the former Santos ace has stepped up and shown he has the ability to be a genuine superstar in his own right.

Few would have bet against Messi and Ronaldo to be leading the scoring in La Liga at this stage of the season but it's Neymar who is at the top of the pile as things stand - and his stunning effort against Villarreal was the pick of the bunch.

Picking the ball on the edge of the box from Luis Suarez's pass, the Brazilian's control, lobbing of the defender and finish were simply exquisite. This year may come too soon, but the 2016 Ballon d'Or race could be very interesting.

Cristiano Ronaldo 

Many anticipated Ronaldo's decline when he hit 30, but in terms of goals at least he remains as lethal as ever.

The Portuguese superstar became Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer with his goal against Levante in October his 324nd goal in his 310th game for the club. The man he beat, Raul, managed his 323 goals in 710 games. A simply incredible achievement.

A week earlier he bagged a brace against Malmo, which further extended his lead as the Champions League all-time record scorer. 

It may not have been his best goal, which isn't saying much as he scores them by the bucketload -but its significance means it makes the cut. However if you're after more, check out his ten best goals of last season below:

Who do you think deserves to win the Ballon d'Or this year - and why? Leave a comment below!

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Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
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