FIFA have moved to deny a story suggesting it inadvertently revealed Lionel Messi as the 2015 Ballon d'Or winner ahead of schedule because of an error on its official website.
Tweets from FIFA Media flatly denied the claim:
FIFA Media @fifamedia
This afternoon, a story 1st posted online in November (false then too) has resurfaced. The winners of the #BallondOr have NOT been leaked.1/6/2016, 5:41:23 PM
Another tweet provided a source for the refuted story, which first surfaced in November:
FIFA Media @fifamedia
November's story (also falsely attributed to FIFA's website) was taken from ESM's website: https://t.co/kRElfD4x48 https://t.co/GjSPX8LDPz1/6/2016, 5:43:48 PM
The Barcelona star's name was said to have appeared alongside that of Celia Sasic, who was given the honour in the women's category after helping Germany to fourth place at the 2015 Women's World Cup.
The winners will be announced in a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 11.
Seeing Messi lift yet another Ballon d'Or would hardly shock many. Although injuries plagued the second half of his calendar year, he spent the first half of 2015 as Barca's inspiration in a treble-winning campaign.
His work with Neymar and Luis Suarez helped the club to a Primera Division, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League haul. Messi scored 58 goals across those three competitions, as well as providing 26 assists, per ESPN FC.
His international exploits included going all the way to the 2015 Copa America final, where Argentina were beaten by Chile 4-1 on penalties. Messi was the only player from his side to score from the spot.
Team-mate Neymar is one of Messi's competitors for the award, along with a perennial rival in Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese has claimed the prize in the previous two years, but he saw Messi scoop the award in each of the four years prior to that.
Hearing Messi's name read out yet again may be a foregone conclusion to some. It would be just another reminder of his enduring and unchecked dominance at the top of the sport.
Yet FIFA insists it's doing its part to preserve whatever suspense there is.
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