Messi heads FIFA nominations

The Spanish League hogs all the nominations for the 2012 FIFA Balon D’Or award. Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi are up against Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid for the prestigious prize.

Messi won the 2011 prize, the first time that FIFA’s World Player of the Year award was merged with the long-standing prize chosen by France Football magazine. He’s a strong contender to retain the trophy after a season in which he scored 53 goals for a Barcelona team that won the Spanish title and the Champions League final.

Ronaldo matched that scoring tally for Real Madrid, who finished second in the league and lost in the Champions League semi-finals to Barcelona. Real won the Spanish Cup, but it was a minor consolation in a season dominated by their Catalan rivals (in fact, they were so unimpressed with the trophy that they ran over it with the team bus).

The voters may be inclined to overlook the great goal-scorers and award the prize to Xavi. He has been the architect of Spain’s wins in the European Championship and World Cup, as well as the mastermind of Barcelona’s mesmerising midfield.

UK interest in the awards ceremony is limited to the coach of the year award. Sir Alex Ferguson is up against Pep Guardiola of Barcelona and Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid. Ferguson led Manchester United to a record 19th league title in England, as well as the Champions League final.

The awards ceremony will take place in Zurich in January 2012.

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