Trio battling for Ballon d'Or

Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi shortlisted for top 2011 individual award

Lionel Messi: The favourite to win the 2011 Ballon d'Or award

Cristiano Ronaldo: Scored 53 goals for Real Madrid as they finished second in Spain

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi are battling to win the prestigious 2011 Ballon d'Or after the list of nominees was reduced to three.

Ballon d'Or winners:

1956 Stanley Matthews
1957 Alfredo Di Stefano
1958 Raymond Kopa
1959 Alfredo Di Stefano
1960 Luis Suarez
1961 Omar Sivori
1962 Josef Masopust
1963 Lev Yashin
1964 Denis Law
1965 Eusebio
1966 Bobby Charlton
1967 Florian Albert
1968 George Best
1969 Gianni Rivera
1970 Gerd Mueller
1971 Johan Cruyff
1972 Franz Beckenbauer
1973 Johan Cruyff
1974 Johan Cruyff
1975 Oleg Blokhin
1976 Franz Beckenbauer
1977 Allan Simonsen
1978 Kevin Keegan
1979 Kevin Keegan
1980 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
1981 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
1982 Paolo Rossi
1983 Michel Platini
1984 Michel Platini
1985 Michel Platini
1986 Igor Belanov
1987 Ruud Gullit
1988 Marco van Basten
1989 Marco van Basten
1990 Lothar Matthaeus
1991 Jean-Pierre Papin
1992 Marco van Basten
1993 Roberto Baggio
1994 Hristo Stoichkov
1995 George Weah
1996 Matthias Sammer
1997 Ronaldo
1998 Zinedine Zidane
1999 Rivaldo
2000 Luis Figo
2001 Michael Owen
2002 Ronaldo
2003 Pavel Nedved
2004 Andriy Shevchenko
2005 Ronaldinho
2006 Fabio Cannavaro
2007 Kaka
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo
2009 Lionel Messi
2010 Lionel Messi

It comes as little surprise as two of the stars play for European champions Barcelona while Real Madrid ace Ronaldo has enjoyed a stand-out year.

Messi won the inaugural award last year after FIFA's World Player of the Year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or prize merged.

The Barcelona forward is the favourite once again following another stunning season at Camp Nou in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions.

Should Messi triumph he will join former France midfielder Michel Platini, and Holland greats Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten as the only three-time winners.

The Argentina international was Barca's top scorer as Pep Guardiola's men retained the Primera Liga title and reclaimed the UEFA Champions League trophy by defeating Manchester United at Wembley.

Xavi was the architect of many of Messi's goals, the Barca veteran maintaining his position as arguably the premier midfielder in world football.

Ronaldo also scored 53 times for Real Madrid as they finished runners-up in Spain and lost out to Barca in the Champions League semi-finals.

The former Manchester United winger has carried his form into this season with Jose Mourinho's men three points clear of Barcelona at the top of Spain's top flight.

Red Devils striker Wayne Rooney was the only Englishman to make the 23-man list of nominees, however, he is no longer in contention to win the coveted award.

Coach of the Year

Meanwhile, Guardiola, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson were shortlisted for the 2011 FIFA Coach of the Year award.

Guardiola's men were again mesmeric in 2011, sweeping all before them with an attractive style of football.

Real were their closest challengers, narrowly losing out in the domestic league and in Europe. They did, however, gain a degree of revenge by lifting the Copa del Rey with a 1-0 defeat of the Catalans in Valencia.

In addition to guiding United to the Champions League final, Ferguson also led the Red Devils to a record 19th English championship - the 12th under the Scot's stewardship.

United were also represented in the category for the 2011 goal of the year - the FIFA Puskas award - with Rooney nominated for his stunning overhead kick against Manchester City last season.

The winners will be announced on 9th January in Zurich with 1987 Ballon d'Or winner Ruud Gullit presiding over the ceremony.

Who will win the 2011 Ballon d'Or?

  • Messi
  • Ronaldo
  • Xavi