Magnificent Messi in line for FIFA four-in-a-row
LIONEL MESSI is being hotly tipped to become the first man to win the World Player of the Year award four times in a row, after the shortlist for FIFA's Ballon d'Or was published.
The 25-year-old, who set a La Liga record by scoring 50 league goals for Barcelona last season, is among the 23 players shortlisted for the award.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who was runner-up to Messi in last year's vote, is also included -- as is Andres Iniesta, who was named the Player of the Tournament after Spain retained their title at Euro 2012.
Wayne Rooney is once again the only English player on the list. His nomination is somehting of a surprise considering his failure to shine at Euro 2012 and inability to guide Manchester United into the knockout stages of last season's Champions League.
Robin van Persie and the Manchester City trio of Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré and Mario Balotelli complete the Premier League contingent.
Despite their Champions League success, Chelsea have just one player nominated -- Didier Drogba, who left Stamford Bridge at the end of last season for Shanghai Shenhua.
Having set a record in La Liga by scoring 50 league goals for Barcelona during the 2011-12 season, Messi has been listed as a 1/2 odds-on favourite to claim the prize, with Ronaldo at 7/4 and Andrés Iniesta a 5/1 chance.
Surprisingly, there is no place on the list of nominations for City playmaker David Silva, while goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the only member of Bayern Munich's Champions League final team to make the shortlist.
National team coaches and captains, as well as selected journalists, will cast their votes for a final shortlist of three for both awards, which will be unveiled on November 29.
The winner will be announced on January 7.