Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Neymar will compete with current holder Cristiano Ronaldo for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Real Madrid forward Ronaldo has won the award for the past two years, with Messi winning it for each of the four years previous to that. And with Ronaldo named in 2008 too, one of the pair has been named the best player in the world on the last seven occasions.
The only other player to make the top two of the final vote over that seven-year period was Andres Iniesta in 2010, when Messi headed an all-Barca shortlist that also included Xavi Hernandez.
Despite overtaking Raul to become Madrid’s all-time top goal scorer, Ronaldo is seen as second favourite to make it three victories in a row with the club winning no silverware in 2015, other than the Spanish Super Cup.
Neymar, who is the top scorer in La Liga this season with 14 goals, is considered the outsider of the three to win the Ballon d’Or in the first year he has made the shortlist.
Ronaldo (45), Lionel Messi (44) and Neymar (41) have scored more goals all competitions in 2015 than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Luis Suarez, the other member of Barca’s “MSN” attack, was also a strong contender to make the final three, as was Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.
The final three has been reduced from an initial list of 23 , with Barcelona and Real Madrid providing almost half of those players.
The vote for the award will be made by the captains and head coaches of each men’s national team as well as by international media representatives selected by French publication France Football.
The shortlist for the women’s Ballon d’Or is Carli Lloyd (U.S.), Aya Niyama (Japan) and Celia Sasic (Germany).
The Puskas Award, for the best goal of the year , will be between Alessandro Florenzi (Roma vs. Barcelona), Messi (Barcelona vs. Atletico Bilbao) and Wendell Lira (Goianesia vs. Atletico-GO).
The final three for the men’s coach of the year are Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich), Luis Enrique (Barcelona) and Jorge Sampaoli (Chile). And for the women’s coach of the year, Jill Ellis (U.S.), Mark Sampson (England) and Norio Sasaki (Japan).
The FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala takes place in Zurich on Jan 11, 2016.