La Liga leads Ballon d'Or shortlist

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi have been named on a three-man shortlist for the prestigious Fifa Ballon d'Or award for 2011.

The 24-year-old Argentine international is the favourite to make it a hat-trick of trophies after claiming the 2009 and 2010 accolades ahead of Barcelona teammate Xavi, who finished in third place on both occasions.

Messi capped another stunning season with the reigning La Liga and European Champions, scoring 53 goals for Barcelona in all competitions, while Portuguese star Ronaldo, who won the award himself in 2008 and came second in 2007 and 2009, matched his return.

With 53 goals for Real Madrid, the Los Blancos forward helped Jose Mourinho's side to the Copa del Rey trophy, whilst they finished second in La Liga, and lost to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

World-cup winning midfielder Xavi was the architect of many of Messi's goals, as the veteran maintained his position as arguably the finest midfielder in world football, receiving further recognition for his contribution to the Barcelona cause with another nomination.

Meanwhile, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has been nominated for Goal of the Year, while Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson is in contention for the Coach of the Year award.

The England international's stunning overhead kick against Manchester City at Old Trafford last season, sits alongside Ballon d'Or nominee Messi's chip and volley over Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny in the UEFA Champions League last season, as well as Brazilian sensation Neymar's incredible solo effort for Santos against Flamengo in July.

Ferguson, who led United to a record 19th English championship in the same year he celebrated his 25th anniversary at Old Trafford, also guided the club to the UEFA Champions League final, where they lost 3-1 to Barcelona at Wembley.

The 69-year-old Scot goes up against Barcelona's Pep Guardiola - who made it another domestic and European double - as well as Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho.

The Fifa Ballon d'Or is voted for by journalists, and the coaches and captains of international teams, after Fifa's world player of the year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or prize merged, with the awards winners for each category set to be announced on January 9 in Zurich.

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