The contenders for the gong, which is awarded to the finest footballer on the planet, were whittled down from a 23-man list of nominations and confirmed via France Football on Monday:
It means Blaugrana star Luis Suarez and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski will not be considered for the accolade despite excellent years.
Here are the final shortlists in a selection of categories announced by FIFA, per their official Twitter feed:
|Ballon d'Or Shortlists|
|Nominee 1||Nominee 2||Nominee 3|
|Men's Player of the Year||Lionel Messi (Barcelona)||Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)||Neymar (Barcelona)|
|Women's Player of the Year||Carli Lloyd (United States)||Aya Miyama (Japan)||Celia Sasic (Germany)|
|Men's Coach of the Year||Pep Guardiola (Bayern)||Luis Enrique (Barcelona)||Jorge Sampaoli (Chile)|
|Women's Coach of the Year||Jill Ellis (US)||Mark Sampson (England)||Norio Sasak (Japan)|
|Goal of the Year||Alessandro Florenzi (Roma)||Wendell Lira (Goianesia)||Lionel Messi (Barcelona)|
It’s the first time Neymar has been included in the final three, while Messi and Ronaldo will be seeking to be named as the world’s best by FIFA for the fifth and fourth time, respectively.
Here’s a closer examination of why each of the three have made it this far and a look at which player is set to win this prestigious award.
|Forward Comparison 2015-16: Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo|
|Apps (Sub)||6 (2)||12||13|
|Shots per game||5||4.3||6.8|
|Key passes per game||1.9||4.1||1.4|
|Dribbles per game||5.8||4.3||1.2|
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
After winning the Ballon d’Or last season, many expected Ronaldo to go on and achieve even more great things in 2015. However, his Real Madrid side crumbled in pursuit of major honours, despite the Portuguese keeping up his incredible goalscoring feats.
Indeed, Ronaldo finished the 2014-15 season with a staggering 48 goals in La Liga and 10 in the Champions League, while Los Blancos still ended the campaign with no silverware to show for their efforts. This season has been a stuttering one for the 30-year-old, too, after toiling under the tutelage of new manager Rafael Benitez, per WhoScored.com:
Still, Ronaldo has surpassed some individual landmarks. Earlier in the season, he netted the 500th goal of his career so far, while he also became the all-time top scorer in Real Madrid’s history, surpassing club legend Raul in the process.
Stories continue to swirl about his future, with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain both said to be keen on signing the Portuguese, per Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph. However, despite his influence diminishing in general play, Ronaldo remains one of the most natural goalscorers on the planet and a player Real will be desperate to keep.
Nevertheless, having failed to win anything with Real in 2015, the previous winner may well slip out of the top two this year.
No longer a frustrating and erratic winger, Neymar has grown into a decisive big-game player for Barcelona and a genuine contender for the mantle of being the world’s best player.
It’s been a remarkable year for the Brazil skipper. Alongside Messi and Suarez, he’s dazzled on the left flank of the Blaugrana attack. Last season, he was particularly impressive in the Champions League, showing his appetite for the big occasion with goals in both legs of the quarter-final, both legs of the semi-final and in the final itself, as Barca beat Juventus 3-1.
Despite these heroics, the former Santos man was still playing a supporting role to Messi. However, with the Barcelona talisman injured in recent weeks, Neymar has taken his game to remarkable heights, and he has proved he is capable of leading this team, per Squawka Football:
The improvements in his game are there for all to see. While Neymar still takes chances on the ball, as any attacker should, he’s a footballer who is refining his decision-making all the time. In addition, the Brazilian plays the game with an enamouring flair, something which was encapsulated recently when scoring this stunning goal for Barca against Villarreal:
Ronaldo has long been alongside Messi as the best player on the planet, but the consistent, decisive displays Neymar has turned in this season have seen him usurp the Los Blancos man for the time being. But it still won’t be enough for him to take first place.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Moving Messi away from what was a customary berth as a false nine was a bold move from Barcelona manager Luis Enrique in the nascent weeks of 2015. But it was a tactical tweak that invigorated the Blaugrana en route to a trio of trophies and reminded us why the diminutive Argentinian is right to be revered as one of the all-time greats.
The version of Messi we witnessed from January up until the Champions League final in June was sensational. Not only did he score goals, the Argentinian was a creative force, aiding both Neymar and Suarez in becoming much more threatening influences. He was the player who helped amalgamate one of the most feared attacking units in football history.
Despite missing a couple of months with injury, Messi’s numbers are remarkable when compared to those accrued by his rampant team-mates, per BreatheSport:
For Argentina, it was more heartbreak for Messi, as his national side lost a major final for the second consecutive summer; this time, it was the Copa America against Chile, a year on from a World Cup final defeat to Germany.
But having helped Barcelona recover from a difficult start to 2015, inspiring them to a treble of trophies for the second time in his career, Messi is the worthy winner of this year’s award.
He is a joy to watch for supporters around the globe, seems to enjoy every second spent on a football pitch and has been a critical influence in one of the most exciting football teams of all time. Messi is the big favourite for glory, and a fifth Ballon d’Or win would be a fitting tribute for this immortal footballing figure.