x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Hard to see anyone prevent Lionel Messi retaining Ballon d'Or

Messi is favourite to retain the trophy for a third consecutive year and match Michel Platini's record in the 1980s

Fifa released a 23 man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or yesterday and eight Barcelona players dominate the nominations, as they did last season when Lionel Messi won the competition and his teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta were second and third.

Messi is favourite to retain the trophy for a third consecutive year and match Michel Platini's record in the 1980s while he was at Juventus. Even his nominated teammates expect him to win it and such is Messi's consistency, there is no reason why he cannot win a third, fourth or fifth, especially if he continues to play for a team regarded as the planet's finest.

The list also includes Neymar, the 19-year-old Brazilian striker, who is the only player from a league outside central Europe, alongside Samuel Eto'o, who now earns a higher salary than any other in world football, for Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia.

Spain's Primera Liga again dominates, with 13 of the players at Barcelona or Real Madrid, against just four in England's Premier League.

The list is largely accurate but bows to reputations over what some players have actually achieved in 2011.

Diego Forlan had a glorious 2010 and an inglorious 2011, save for his goals in the Copa America. Nani is on the list and yet he did not start in May's European Cup final for Manchester United, while David Silva could feel aggrieved at being left out, such has been his form for Manchester City in 2011.

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