Messi surely the favourite for 2009 Ballon d’Or

Lionel MessiCristiano Ronaldo will prove Messi's closest competitor

Lionel Messi

The list of 30 nominees set to contend for the award of this year’s prestigious Ballon d’Or was announced on Sunday and is headed up by 2008 winner Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

The two favourites to claim the title of European Footballer of the Year are joined by four of Fabio Capello’s in-form England side, but not a single player representing current world champions Italy.

Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, and Frank Lampard are included from the England squad in a list that adds more weight to the belief that the Spanish Primera Liga has superseded the Premier League to become the best football league in the world – boasting the most nominated players from a single league with 12.

The Premier League has the second highest number of nominees in the list with 10 – all plying their trades at the ‘big four’ sides of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United – while Serie A is represented by just four.

Lionel Messi surely has to be crowned European Footballer of the Year.

The brilliant Argentine fired home 38 goals – and provided a total of 18 assists – in all competitions as Barcelona clinched the treble of Champions League, Primera Liga, and Copa del Rey for the first time in their illustrious history during the last campaign, and has notched eight goals in 11 appearances already this season.

Xavi and Andres Iniesta deserve an honourable mention for their part in the unprecedented achievement, as does the football philosophy put into practice by the Catalan club; but this is an individual award and it would be criminal to overlook the level of performance maintained by their 22-year-old talisman.

2008 Ballon d’Or winner and World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, will prove Messi’s closest competitor.

The Portuguese superstar played a significant part in retaining Manchester United’s Premier League title for a third successive season during 2008-09, and the world-record signing has been in unstoppable form for Real Madrid this term – scoring nine goals from just seven games in all competitions – until being forced out through injury in recent weeks.

The winner of the 2009 Ballon d’Or – voted for by 96 journalists from around the globe – will be announced in a ceremony on December 1.

The 30-man list of nominees for the 2009 Ballon d’Or:

Premier League

Arsenal:
Andrey Arshavin
Cesc Fabregas
Chelsea:
Didier Drogba
Frank Lampard
John Terry
Liverpool:
Fernando Torres
Steven Gerrard
Manchester United:
Nemanja Vidic
Ryan Giggs
Wayne Rooney

Primera Liga

Atletico Madrid:
Diego Forlan
Barcelona:
Andres Iniesta
Lionel Messi
Thierry Henry
Xavi
Yaya Toure
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Real Madrid:
Cristiano Ronaldo
Iker Casillas
Kaka
Karim Benzema
Valencia:
David Villa
Seville:
Luis Fabiano

Serie A

Inter Milan:
Julio Cesar
Maicon
Samuel Eto’o
Juventus:
Diego

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich:
Franck Ribery
Wolfsburg:
Edin Dzeko

Ligue 1

Bordeaux:
Yoann Gourcuff

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