Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi shortlisted for FIFA's top world player prize
LIONEL Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi were today shortlisted for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or, FIFA and France Football announced.
All three play in Spain. Ireland will face Xavi when they play Spain in next summer's Euro 2012 tournament.
Messi won the inaugural award last year after FIFA's World Player of the Year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or gong merged.
The Barcelona forward is the favourite once more after another stunning season at the Nou Camp in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions.
Argentinian Messi was Barca's top scorer as Pep Guardiola's men retained the Primera Division title and re-claimed the Champions League trophy with a comprehensive defeat of Manchester United at Wembley.
Xavi was the architect of many of Messi's goals, the Barca veteran maintaining his position as arguably the premier midfielder in world football.
Ronaldo also scored 53 times for Real Madrid as they finished runners-up in Spain and lost out to Barca in the Champions League semi-finals.