Magical Messi favourite for Ballon d'Or hat-trick
Lionel Messi is on course for a record-equalling third consecutive Ballon d'Or, soccer's highest individual award, after the Argentinian forward was named on a three-man shortlist.
Messi's Barcelona team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo were also shortlisted, with clubs from Spain's La Liga providing the top three for the third year in a row.
Messi, who won the Ballon d'Or in 2009 and 2010, will be the favourite to complete a hat-trick of titles after his man-of-the-match performance helped the Spanish side beat Manchester United in the Champions League final in May.
Portuguese forward Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or in 2008 while Xavi has finished third in the last two editions.
Last year, the FIFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or awards merged into the FIFA Ballon d'Or and votes now come from the coaches and captains of international teams as well as from journalists.
The winner will be announced on January 9 in Zurich.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, Barcelona's Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho were shortlisted for the Coach of the Year award.