Ballon d'Or delight for Guardiola

06 December 2011 07:47

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was honoured after his side once again dominated the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d'Or awards.

Lionel Messi won the inaugural award last year after FIFA's World Player of the Year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or gong merged, and the Argentina forward is again on the three-man shortlist along with team-mate Xavi. Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo completes the line-up, replacing Barca's Andres Iniesta from last year's trio.

"This title has real meaning. It is an honour that last year we had three players (shortlisted) and now two this year," said Guardiola, who himself is nominated for the coach of the year prize.

He added: "If they are so many (Barca) players, it is because we have won a lot. If we had no titles, this would not make sense. We congratulate them and now people must be left to vote in peace."

Messi is the favourite to once more take the prize after another stunning season at the Nou Camp in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions.

The 24-year-old was Barca's top scorer as Guardiola's men retained the Primera Division title and reclaimed the Champions League trophy with a comprehensive defeat of Manchester United at Wembley.

Xavi was the architect of many of Messi's goals, the 31-year-old Barca and Spain star maintaining his position as arguably the premier midfielder in world football. Ronaldo also scored 53 times for Real Madrid as they finished runners-up in La Liga and lost out to Barca in the Champions League semi-finals.

Guardiola is joined by Real boss Jose Mourinho and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the running for the coach of the year award.

United were also represented in the category for the 2011 goal of the year - the FIFA Puskas award - with Wayne Rooney nominated for his stunning overhead kick against Manchester City last season.

Messi's clever chip and volley over Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the Champions League last 16 last term was also put forward, as was Brazil striker Neymar's incredible solo effort for Santos against Flamengo in July. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Zurich on January 9, 2012.

Source: PA