Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer are the three players short-listed for this year’s Ballon d’Or – the title of the world’s greatest footballer.
Real Madrid’s Ronaldo won the 2013 honor to end Messi’s four-year run and the Portugal forward, who won it last year, is the favorite.
Real Madrid has criticized UEFA president Michel Platini for suggesting Ronaldo should not win it.
Former France midfielder Platini said the prize should be awarded to one of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad.
Six Germany players – Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Bastian Schweinsteiger – were named in the 23-man short list.
Ronaldo is in irresistible form at the moment, breaking numerous scoring records.
As well as the Champions League, he helped Madrid win the Spanish Copa Del Rey and UEFA Super Cup last season and has also claimed a host of individual awards.
The three were chosen from a 23-man list, which included Gareth Bale. The winner will be announced on Jan. 12.
Nadine Kessler (Germany), Marta (Brazil) and Abby Wambach (USA) were short-listed for the women’s award.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, Germany’s World Cup winning boss Joachim Loew and Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone are short-listed for the FIFA coach of the year.
While Messi broke the Champions League and Spanish league scoring records last week after winning the Golden Ball at the World Cup, the Argentina forward will end the year without a team honor.
Argentina lost to Germany in the World Cup final. Neuer kept a clean sheet as the Bayern Munich goalkeeper followed up winning the German league and cup by lifting football’s biggest prize.
Ronaldo’s World Cup campaign with Portugal ended in the group stage, but his club form surpasses everything his peers have achieved.
Neuer, 28, is the first goalkeeper to make the final three since compatriot Oliver Kahn made the shortlist in 2002.
Wolfsburg boss Ralf Kellermann, Germany U19 and U20 coach Maren Meinert and Japan coach Norio Sasaki were short-listed for the FIFA world coach of the year for women’s football award.