Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar to battle it out for Ballon d'Or
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Neymar have been shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award, the world governing body has announced.
The prize is the most prestigious individual player award in the game and the three were chosen from a longer list of 23 names which also included Wales and Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.
The winner will be revealed at a gala ceremony in Zurich on January 11.
Ronaldo has won four Ballon d'Or awards, including for the past two years.
Messi also has four, which came consecutively from 2009 to 2012.
The Argentina forward helped Barcelona win the treble last season, and is odds-on favourite to make it Ballon d'Or number five in 2016.
Ronaldo certainly feels no reason to expect an upset.
"To be honest I think Messi is going to win this year because this kind of trophy, it depends on votes," the former Manchester United forward said earlier this month.
"You win competitions, you win the Champions League you win the league in terms of individual. I did probably the best season of my career which is good and I was the highest scorer in Europe [but] it's all about votes.
"It is difficult and to be honest I am not very worried about that because as I said many times, I never thought I would win three times to be honest."
At 23, Neymar is the youngest of the finalists.
The Brazil forward netted twice as Barcelona beat Real Sociedad in the Premiera Division on Saturday, and afterwards spoke of his pride at being included among the contenders.
"I have never played football to be the best player in the world, or to win the Ballon d'Or. I've always just played with the idea of continually getting better, to always surpass my goals, to always be better, play better, train better," he said.
"To be the best in the world is the direct result of all of this work. If today I am being spoken of in such terms, it is a clear sign that what I am doing is working."