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Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, nominated for top FIFA award

By Jerome Pugmire
AP Sports Writer / December 5, 2011
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PARIS—Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez are finalists for the FIFA player of the year award along with Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

The three Ballon d'Or finalists were selected Monday from among 23 nominees. Messi beat Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi to win last year.

Messi could become the first player to win the FIFA honor three years in a row and join the Brazilian Ronaldo (1996, 1997, 2002) and Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000, 2003) as the only three-time winners of the FIFA award, which began in 1991.

FIFA's player of the year award merged last year with France Football's Ballon d'Or to create one trophy. French midfielder Michel Platini, and former Dutch greats Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten are the only three-time Golden Ball winners.

Messi has 27 goals this season and Ronaldo 21, with the pair tied for the Spanish league lead with 17 apiece. They face each other in the Spanish league on Saturday.

The winner will be announced Jan. 9 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Marta, who helped the New York Flash win the Women's Professional Soccer title last season, is seeking to win the women's award for the sixth straight year.

The Brazilian is up against American forward Abby Wambach and Japan midfielder Homare Sawa, who was the top scorer at the World Cup.

The 24-year-old Messi scored in the 3-1 win over Manchester United in last season's Champions League final and scored 31 league goals as Barcelona won the Spanish title. He has 53 goals for Barcelona in 2011.

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, Manchester United's Alex Ferguson and Barcelona's Pep Guardiola are in the running for best coach.

Messi, Neymar and Wayne Rooney are up for the best goal award.

France's Bruno Bini, Japan's Norio Sasaki and the United States' Pia Sundhage were nominated for the best coach of a woman's team. Japan beat the Americans to win the Women's World Cup in July.

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