The 23-man shortlist for the 2011 Ballon d’Or has been revealed by FIFA in conjunction with France Football magazine, with Wayne Rooney the sole Englishman nominated alongside eight players from Champions League winners Barcelona.
Rooney helped Manchester United win the Premier League title for a record 19th time, and scored in their Champions League final defeat to Barcelona, but the Catalans once again dominate the list.
Lionel Messi is favourite to win the award for the third year running, while Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, who completed last year’s podium, are again named.
The other Barcelona players named are defender Eric Abidal — who was diagnosed with a liver tumour in March but recovered to play in the Champions League final — Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas, who moved to the Camp Nou from Arsenal in the summer.
Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid are also heavily represented with five nominees, as 2008 Ballon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo is joined by Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Frenchman Karim Benzema.
In total, seven Spanish internationals are shortlisted.
Apart from Rooney, only three English-based players are named, with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Manchester United’s Nani joined by Sergio Aguero, who left Atletico Madrid for Manchester City in the summer.
Brazilian teenage sensation Neymar — of Santos — is the first player based outside of Europe to be shortlisted since Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme in 2007.
In the coach of the year category, ten names were shortlisted with the chance to succeed Jose Mourinho, last year’s winner.
Real Madrid coach Mourinho is on a diverse list that also features Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as Oscar Washington Tabarez, who led Uruguay to glory in the Copa America.
Barcelona’s Josep Guardiola will take some beating, however.
A panel of journalists, as well as the coaches and captains of FIFA’s 208 member associations will vote for the winners, who will be announced at a gala in Zurich, Switzerland on January 9 next year.
The 23 nominees for the Ballon d’Or (country/club):
Eric Abidal (FRA/Barcelona), Karim Benzema (FRA/Real Madrid), Sergio Aguero (ARG/Manchester City), Iker Casillas (ESP/Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (BRA/Barcelona), Samuel Eto’o (CMR/Anzhi Makhachkala), Cesc Fabregas (ESP/Barcelona), Diego Forlan (URU/Inter Milan), Andres Iniesta (ESP/Barcelona), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona), Thomas Muller (GER/Bayern Munich), Nani (POR/Manchester United), Neymar (BRA/Santos), Mesut Ozil (GER/Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (ESP/Barcelona), Wayne Rooney (ENG/Manchester United), Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER/Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (NED/Inter Milan), Luis Suarez (URU/Liverpool), David Villa (ESP/Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (ESP/Real Madrid), Xavi Hernandez (ESP/Barcelona).
The ten nominees for coach of the year (country/team):
Vicente Del Bosque (ESP/Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (SCO/Manchester United), Rudi Garcia (FRA/Lille), Josep Guardiola (ESP/Barcelona), Jurgen Klopp (GER/Borussia Dortmund), Joachim Loew (GER/Germany), Jose Mourinho (POR/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabarez (URU/Uruguay), Andre Villas-Boas (POR/Chelsea), Arsene Wenger (FRA/Arsenal).