Wait nearly over for Barca trio

That is some trio

Barcelona trio Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have been shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, with the winner set to be announced on Monday.

All three are graduates of the club’s fabled La Masia footballing factory and have enjoyed incredible success in 2010.

Xavi and Iniesta have enjoyed a wonderful year at both domestic and international level, enjoying success in the Spanish Primera Division with Barca and the World Cup with Spain.

Messi, meanwhile, has been in imperious form for the Nou Camp side, netting 45 goals in 36 league matches and, overall, 61 goals and more than 20 assists in only 52 matches.

“There is nothing to say to those who vote because they see them on TV and know the great form of the three,” said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.

“They are there thanks to the success they’ve had with the club and their national teams.

“The Argentine is the best in the world, though the other two are also having great careers.”

The FIFA Ballon d’Or is a new award that follows the mergers of two major player prizes – the FIFA World Player of the Year, voted for by players and coaches, and the Ballon d’Or, which was handed out by journalists via France Football magazine.

The Barcelona trio follow in the hallowed footsteps trod by the AC Milan side of the late 1980s, who were the last side to comprise all three finalists for the world award in both 1988 and 1989.

LIONEL MESSI

Messi is the favourite to claim the award in Zurich after another phenomenal 12 months. He scored 34 goals in Barca’s La Liga success and his form has continued into this season. The only blemish was a goalless World Cup as Argentina exited at the quarter-final stage to Germany. “2010 was a good year for me personally, but the World Cup didn’t go the way I wanted,” he said. “Now I have the aim for Argentina to win the Copa America next year, as we’ll contest it at home.” Messi won both the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or crown in 2009, but the diminutive attacker has backed his team-mates to win the unified award, saying: “This year I think one of my team-mates at Barcelona, Xavi or Iniesta, will win.”

XAVI HERNANDEZ

The playmaker has been an integral part of Barcelona’s side for more than a decade and became the joint all-time record appearance holder last weekend. Xavi played his 549th official match for the Catalan club as Barca beat Levante 2-1 at the Nou Camp, equalling the total set by former Spain defender Migueli, who was present to greet Xavi before the match. “It’s an honour and I would like to thank everyone for the support I have always received,” he said after the game. The 30-year-old has won virtually all there is to win at both club and international level, including five Primera Division titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues and a World Club Cup with Barcelona, and both the World Cup and the European Championship with Spain.

ANDRES INIESTA

The 26-year-old midfielder punctuated an astonishing year of success for both club and country by netting the winning goal in the World Cup final. Iniesta was placed fifth in the 2009 award but his performances in South Africa have seen him tipped to win personal recognition in Zurich. The likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Marcel Desailly and Fabio Cannavaro are championing Xavi as potential winner, which would see the Spaniard follow in the footsteps of the latter, who proved catalyst to Italy’s success in 2006 and was duly awarded with the prize. Iniesta, though, is focused on the continued success of Barca as a whole. “We are proud to be among the three finalists for the Ballon d’Or, but for me even more so to be alongside Xavi and Lionel Messi,” said the midfielder on social networking website Facebook. “It is a wonderful prize for the team!”

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