FIFA Player of Year, Ballon d’Or to Be Combined Award

The best men’s soccer player in the world will be recognized by a single accolade after FIFA and France Football magazine decided to combine their awards.

FIFA’s World Player of the Year and the magazine’s Ballon d’Or will be united into one -- called the FIFA Ballon d’Or, or Golden Ball. The first winner will be named Jan. 10 in Zurich, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said today in Johannesburg.

“The winner is football because as of January of next year we will have one single trophy for the best player in the world and this will be the Golden Ball,” Blatter said at a news conference.

The winner of the first FIFA Ballon d’Or will be chosen by coaches and captains of national teams and journalists, soccer’s governing body said.

The Ballon d’Or, at one time limited to European players, has been awarded since 1956, while FIFA’s accolade began in

1991. Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi currently holds both honors.

Messi, who plays for Spanish club Barcelona, is the 4-1 joint-favorite to be the first recipient of the new award along with Wesley Sneijder, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill.

Netherlands midfielder Sneijder has scored four goals at the World Cup to lift his country into the semifinals and also helped Inter Milan win Europe’s Champions League last season.

France’s Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo each won the FIFA award three times. Michel Platini, now president of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, won the Ballon d’Or in three straight years through 1985.

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