Messi Could Pick Up a Fourth FIFA Ballon d’Or Award

Lionel Messi has the chance to make soccer history…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol star, who just claimed his second Golden Boot award, is among the 23 players in the running for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or award.

Lionel Messi

Should he come out on top, Messi, who made history by claiming the award the last three years in a row, would become the only player to claim the award four times.

But Messi will face stiff competition from several noted players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez, this year’s runners-up for the world’s best player award.

Here’s a look at the nominees:

Real Madrid Players:
Cristiano Ronaldo
Iker Casillas
Mesut Ozil
Karim Benzema
Sergio Ramos
Xabi Alonso

Barcelona Players:
Lionel Messi
Andres Iniesta
Sergio Busquets
Gerard Pique
Xavi Hernandez

Atletico Madrid Player:
Radamel Falcao

Manchester City Players:
Mario Balotelli
Sergio Aguero
Yaya Toure

Manchester United Players:
Wayne Rooney
Robin van Persie

Juventus Players:
Andrea Pirlo
Gianluigi Buffon

Shanghai Shenhua Player:
Didier Drogba

PSG Player:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Bayern Munich Player:
Manuel Neuer

Santos Player:

The final three candidates will be revealed on November 29 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Ballon d’Or ceremony will take place in Zurich on January 7, 2013, when the player who receives the most votes from coaches and captains of international teams, as well as reporters, will be announced.

Batista to Sign with Shanghai Shenhua…

Sergio Batista may soon be taking his soccer coaching skills to Asia…

The 49-year-old Argentine fútbol coach is expected to sign with Shanghai Shenhua in another high-profile hiring by a Chinese Super League team.

Sergio Batista

The club has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to introduce its new coach, although no other details were given on Shenhua’s website.

Batista, who has been in China since Friday, met on Monday with the club’s star signing, former Chelsea player Nicolas Anelka, who has been leading a five-man coaching lineup since the departure of Jean Tigana of France last month.

Batista helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup as a player, and coached the Argentine Olympic squad to the gold medal in Beijing in 2008.

Chinese teams recently have begun emerging from years of poor management and match-fixing scandals to splurge on foreign coaches and players, a reflection of China’s growing economic might and thirst for global recognition.

Chinese clubs hope the big names will boost sponsorship and give the league wider recognition, although the dearth of homegrown talent remains a glaring problem for the national team, a perennial underperformer in international competition.

Among other the recent signings, Super League champion Guangzhou Evergrande broke the Chinese transfer spending record to sign Argentine playmaker Dario Conca for $10 million from Fluminense, reportedly making him the third-highest paid player in the world.

The Evergrande followed up this month by hiring coach Marcello Lippi, who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.