Spaniards dominated the shortlist for FIFA’s player of the year award for the second straight year with seven candidates.
Iker Casillas, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, David Villa, Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez were among the 23 players shortlisted, along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi who won the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or award in January after soccer’s governing body and France Football merged their accolades.
“I would put my hand in fire that Messi will win the Ballon D’Or,” Fabregas told FIFA’s website. “He is a natural winner and a motivated fighter.”
The list was drawn up by members of FIFA’s football committee, its technical and development committee and France Football magazine staff.
Messi has seven Barcelona teammates on the list including Iniesta and Xavi who were last year’s runner-ups, while there are five players from the club’s rival Real Madrid.
FIFA also announced the candidates for its coach of the year title, with Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson, Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola, Lille’s Rudi Garcia and Borussia Dortmund’s Juergen Klopp among those included on the 10-man list after leading their clubs to domestic league titles.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez was named for securing the nation’s first Copa America title since 1995.
The 2011 winners will be picked by national team captains, coaches and international media. The shortlists will be cut to three candidates in each category, for both men and women, on Dec. 5, with a final announcement on Jan. 9 in Zurich.
FIFA BALLON D’OR PLAYER SHORTLIST: Eric Abidal (France), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Karim Benzema (France), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Dani Alves (Brazil), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Nani (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), David Villa (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Spain).
FIFA WORLD COACH OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST: Vicente Del Bosque (Spain national team), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Rudi Garcia (Lille), Pep Guardiola (Barcelona), Juergen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Joachim Loew (Germany national team), Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid), Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay national team), Andre Villas-Boas (FC Porto, Chelsea), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).