Messi tops Ballon d'Or shortlist

BARCELONA superstar Lionel Messi is in contention for an unprecedented fourth successive FIFA Ballon d'Or crown after being named on a three-man shortlist yesterday alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate Andres Iniesta.

The diminutvive Argentine has enjoyed an incredible year and stands on the brink of another milestone as he is just three goals shy of former West Germany and Bayern Munich striker Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year, set in 1972.

His main competition should come in the form of Ronaldo.

The former Manchester United midfielder, the last player other than Messi to win the coveted award, provides strong competition after playing a key role as Real Madrid edged arch-rivals Barca in the Primera Division title race.

The Portuguese captain scored a phenomenal 60 goals in all competitions in the 2011/12 season as Jose Mourinho's side also reached the last four of the Champions League before going down to Bayern.

He already has 19 to his name so far this term.

The final nominee, Andres Iniesta, completes the all-Primera Liga shortlist.

The Spain playmaker has had an outstanding year, shining for Barca as well as playing a pivotal role as Spain won a third major title in a row at Euro 2012.

Named as the tournament's best player as his country swept to a stunning success with a 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the final, Iniesta is a truly inspirational leader and creative fulcrum.