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The FIFA “Ballon d’Or” – aka the “Goalden Ball” – award is headed to Barcelona.  In previous years, the Ballon d’Or was awarded by France Football magazine and given to the best player in Europe.  A similar trophy was awarded by FIFA (the FIFA player of the year trophy).  The two awards have now been merged to create one trophy: FIFA Ballon d’Or.

FC Barcelona have made history.  They are the first team ever to have 3 players nominated for the award that came through its own youth system.  AC Milan had 3 players together on the podium in 1988 and 1989 (Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard) but they did not come through the Milan youth system.

The three Barcelona candidates are Iniesta, Xavi and Messi.

Midfielders Iniesta and Xavi helped Spain win its first World Cup.  They have played absolutely instrumenal roles in the Spanish midfield as well as the Barcelona midfiled.  Iniesta scored the winning goal in the World Cup final it what seemed to be the icing on the cake for a performance for the ages.  Xavi and Iniesta linked beautifully in the midfield for the entire tournament creating moments of magic.  Xavi was potentially the best player in that tournament.

Recently, they played key roles in the demolition of their arch rivals Real Madrid in a 5-0 thrashing.  Xavi was once again probably the best player in that game and has been consistently putting together solid performances and even more impressive numbers.

The Argentina forward, Messi, led Barcelona to another Spanish title while performing at a level that is simply superior to anyone in the world.  Although he has not experienced much success with Argentina, his performances with Barcelona have been humbling to say the least.  Messi has 15 goals in the first 12 games of Barcelona’s season.

Although Messi didn’t score in the recent beating of Real Madrid, he single handidly created 3 of the goals.  He tore through one of the best teams in the world as if it was a practice session.

The three female finalists are German’s Fatmire Bajramaj and Birgit Prinz and Brazil’s Marta. Canadian Christine Sinclair did not make the final list.

The coach of the year award is between Jose Mourinho — who won the Champions League and the domestic League and Cup double with Inter Milan — Spain’s Vicente del Bosque who won the 2008 World Cup and Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola who has guided Barcelona to world club dominance.

The winners will be announced on Jan. 10.

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