The Ballon d’Or shortlist has been whittled down to three names, and a goalkeeper remains with the hopes to become the first netminder to snare the player of the year award since Lev Yashin in 1963.
Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer is joined by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi on the final list. Messi has been in the Top Three every year since 2007, while Ronaldo only missed out in 2010.
Oddly enough, the last Top Three to not include Messi nor Ronaldo included a goalkeeper. Gigi Buffon finished 2007 sandwiched between winner Fabio Cannavaro and No. 3 Thierry Henry
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Ronaldo won in 2008 and 2013, while Messi has claimed the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
On the women’s side, Abby Wambach has again defied her critics to be placed on the list (and it’s admittedly quite surprising given the States poor form in the Algarve Cup and Wamback’s lack of appearances for the Western New York Flash). She’ll go up against a former Flash player, Brazilian star Marta, as well as Germany’s Nadine Kessler.
Marta and Wambach have been nominated each of the past three seasons, though only Wambach has won (2012). Marta won five-straight from 2006-2010, while Nadine Angerer of Germany won last season.
The coaches nominees are out as well. From Rob Harris of the Associated Press:
The men’s list features Carlo Ancelotti, who led Real to its 10th European Cup in May, Germany’s World Cup winner Joachim Loew and Diego Simeone, who broke the dominance of Real and Barcelona to win the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid.
The women’s list is made up of Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann, Maren Meinert, who won the under-20s 2015 World Cup with Germany, and Norio Sasaki, coach of Japan’s Asian Cup-winning side.
Who will win? Hard to tell. Neuer has as strong a claim as any, but Ronaldo has been phenomenal and Messi has scorched through the old record book.
The awards will be announced on Jan. 12 in Switzerland.