He’s the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, having won the coveted trophy two years in a row… And now Lionel Messi is on the verge of a threepeat!
But the 24-year-old Argentine soccer superstar will have to beat out his fellow Futbol Club Barcelona teammate Xavi and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo for the trophy, which is given annually to the player considered to have performed the best in the previous season.
The three players were shortlisted this week for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or, with Messi the strong favorite to become only the second player in the award’s 55-year history to claim the trophy hat-trick in successive years.
Michael Platini, now president of European soccer’s governing body Uefa, is the only player to have achieved the feat to date. The Frenchman took home the award in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Dutch stars Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten also claimed the title three times, but not in successive years.
The Ballon d’Or is awarded based on votes by coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists from around the world.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Marta will face off against the United States’ Abby Wambach and Japan’s Homare Sawa for the player of the year crown in the women’s division.
The 2011 awards will be voted for by national team coaches and captains, as well as a panel of soccer journalists.
The winners will be presented at a special ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on January 9.