Last year three Barcelona players shared the stage at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala and that remarkable scene could be repeated this year as eight Barcelona players have made the 23-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, with Lionel Messi odds on favourite to win the award for the third year in succession.
Messi has been in brilliant form this year scoring 45 times in 47 matches in 2011. Messi’s rivals include competitive appearances in 2011, his continuing presence among the frontrunners is hardly a surprise. Cesc Fabregas, whose close-season transfer has helped swell compatriot Sergio Aguero as well as Barcelona teammates Cesc Fabregas, Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Xavi and David Villa.
One name of interest on the list is Brazil’s Neymar. At 19 Neymar is the youngest player nominated but he faces an uphill battle to get the award due to FIFA’s European bias. Since the shortlist system was introduced by FIFA in 2004, only one player based outside of Europe has ever included, and even the man in question, Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme, was on loan at the time from Villarreal.
The voting for the Ballon d’Or is decided by the votes of journalists and of the national coaches and captains of FIFA’s 208 member associations. The winner will be announced on 9 January 2012 at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala in Zurich.
2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist
Eric Abidal (FRA), Sergio Aguero (ARG), Xabi Alonso (ESP), Dani Alves (BRA), Karim Benzema (FRA), Iker Casillas (ESP), Samuel Eto’o (CMR), Cesc Fabregas (ESP), Diego Forlan (URU), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Lionel Messi (ARG), Thomas Muller (GER), Nani (POR), Neymar (BRA), Mesut Ozil (GER), Gerard Pique (ESP), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER), Wesley Sneijder (NED), Luis Suarez (URU) David Villa (ESP), Xavi (ESP)