FIFA have whittled down their 23-man 2014 Ballon d’Or nominees to three, and as expected, current holder Cristiano Ronaldo, Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Barcelona kingpin Lionel Messi will file out on January 12 next year in Zurich for the gong.
Portugal captain and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is hot favourite to win the award for a third time, and a second successive year. Ronaldo and Barcelona striker Messi have had a duopoly on the award since 2008.
Messi won the award four straight years from 2009-2012, while Ronaldo won it in 2008 and 2013.
New entry Neuer, who won the World Cup with Germany in the summer as well as a domestic double with Bayern, is in contention to become only the second goalkeeper to win the World Footballer of the Year award after Dinamo Moscow’s Lev Yashin in 1963.
Meanwhile, the final three nominees for the FIFA Puskas Award – to be handed to the player who scored the best goal in 2014 were also released.
The final three are: Stephanie Roche for
Peamount United against Wexford Youths in October 2013; James Rodriguez for Colombia against Uruguay at the World Cup; and Robin van Persie for Netherlands against deposed world champions Spain.