Trio Battling For Ballon d'Or
***Messi, Ronaldo and Xavi shortlisted for top 2011 individual award
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.
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.