For the first time since 1989, one single club can boast the honour of employing all three players named on FIFA’s 2010 Ballon d’Or shortlist.
21 years ago, AC Milan achieved the feat when legendary triumvirate Franco Baresi, Frank Rijkaard and eventual winner Marco Van Basten were whittled down from the preliminary long list, but this time round it is Catalan powerhouse Barcelona who are now guaranteed to see one of their number crowned as the best player in world football come January 10th.
Inseparable midfield schemers Xavi and Andres Iniesta are joined by their mercurial cohort Lionel Messi in the final triptych (which has been whittled down from FIFA’s original 23-man ‘slightly longer’ shortlist), with a winner eventually being voted for by the various captains and managers/head coaches of FIFA-recognised national teams and by selected representatives of the international media chosen by original Ballon d’Or adjudicators France Football magazine.
Xavi and Iniesta both played genuinely integral parts in both Spain’s World Cup triumph and Barcelona’s title-winning campaign, whilst Messi gilded the latter with 34 goals and countless expositions of near-celestial approach play.
Barcelona also have an interest in the Coach of the Year award stakes, with incumbent Pep Guardiola shortlisted alongside Spain’s World Cup-winning veteran Vincente Del Bosque and Inter’s former treble-winning schemer Jose Mourinho – who is, you would assume, a shoe-in to take the plaudits. A treble is a treble after all.
Over on the women’s shortlists, Brazilian international Marta (who has won the women’s world player of the year on four separate occasions), is joined on by German pairing Fatmire Bajramaj and Birgit Prinz – with the women’s coaching category set to be contested by Maren Meinert (who heads up the Germany Under 20’s), Silvia Neid (of the German senior team) and Pia Sundhage (who is currently in charge of the US national side).
Reigning Ballon d’Or winner Messi has already been installed as the bookies’ favourite to be bestowed with the award for the second year running, but the intrinsic and supportive artistry of his just simply cannot be overlooked – sadly a rule of thumb not applied to Inter Milan lynch-pin Wesley Sneijder.
Unfortunately for him, the Dutch midfielder has been rather callously snubbed by FIFA, despite ending 2010 having enjoyed an impressive Serie A/Champions League/Coppa Italia medal haul, a five-goal World Cup campaign and a string of dynamic performances for the Nerazzurri during the second-half of last season.
Whereas, admittedly, there’s not an awful lot in it, you’d have to be one hell of a cold-hearted fiend not to include Sneijder over Iniesta in this year’s Ballon d’Or running – although I suppose this is FIFA we’re talking about here.
Please feel free to leave your predicitons as to who will snare the various FIFA gongs in the comments box below…