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Star trio of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar shortlisted for FIFA's Ballon d'Or award

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will go head-to-head once again for the title of world's best footballer after being short-listed along with Neymar on Tuesday (AEDT) for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or.
For the seventh time in eight years, the dynamic duo of Barcelona's Messi and Real Madrid's Ronaldo are expected to fill the top two places on the podium in Zurich in January for the coveted accolade of being the year's leading player.
Even before the award was merged with France Football's Ballon d'Or in 2010, the men's World Player of the Year had effectively become an annual private 'Clasico' between two of the great players of any generation.
Argentine Messi, who will now have been on the podium for an amazing nine successive years, won four times in succession between 2009 and 2012, while Portugal's Ronaldo has won three times, once when he was at Manchester United in 2008 and the most recent two editions at Real Madrid.
The only time in the last seven years when they did not finish one-two was in 2010 when the Barcelona trio of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi swept the podium.
Messi is an overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy again for a fifth time after a calendar year in which, despite losing two months to injury, he has still scored 48 goals while inspiring Barca to a Champions League/La Liga/King's Cup treble.
Ronaldo, too, has 48 to his name for club and country in 2015 but Real's fortunes have slumped and his protests on the chat show beat that he is still the number one have held just a little less conviction than usual.
Yet on his present scintillating form, Brazilian Neymar, Messi's partner in destruction along with Luis Suarez at Barca, has a claim on being the equal of either of them.
The Ballon d'Or vote has been made by national team coaches and captains and leading journalists, with the winner being announced at a ceremony in Zurich on January 11.
Luis Enrique, who coaches Messi and Neymar at Barcelona, heads the shortlist for the coach of year award, along with Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola and Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli.
Guardiola's inclusion was possibly a surprise as Bayern Munich's only trophy last season was the Bundesliga - the very minimum that would have been expected of them - although his team's form this term has been magnificent.
Sampaoli, an Argentine, was included after leading Chile to its first-ever Copa America title, which the team won at home after beating Argentina on penalties in the final.
World Cup-winning captain Carli Lloyd (USA/Houston Dash), Aya Miyama (Japan/Okayama Yunogo Belle), and Celia Sasic (Germany/FFC Frankfurt) are in the running for the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award.
And Jill Ellis (USA/USA national team), Mark Sampson (Wales/English national team) and Norio Sasaki (Japan/Japanese national team) are the final trio to battle it out for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football award.

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