Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery are on the final shortlist for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Barcelona star Messi has won the award three years in a row since its inception in 2010, when the FIFA World Player of the Year and France Football Ballon d’Or prizes were merged.
However, the Argentina captain faces a real challenge for the trophy this time around after struggling with injury for much of the year, with Real Madrid forward Ronaldo the favourite to be presented with the award in Zurich on January 13.
Portugal captain Ronaldo – who was named World Player of the Year in 2008 and has finished runner-up to Messi for the last two years – has scored 32 goals in just 22 appearances for club and country this season, including eight in four UEFA Champions League games.
The 28-year-old inspired Portugal to a 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden in their FIFA World Cup play-off last month, scoring all four of his side’s goals across the two fixtures, including a stunning hat-trick in the second leg in Solna.
Bayern Munich winger Ribery, meanwhile, is in the running after he played a major role in his club’s unprecedented treble of the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal titles in 2012-13.
Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery featured on the initial shortlist of 23 players, which has been narrowed down based on the votes of international managers, captains and a selection of journalists from around the world.