Belfast Telegraph

Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among old faces chasing Ballon d'Or

Past winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are again the leading contenders for the Fifa Ballon d'Or as the world's best player.

The pair, stars of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, have both been named on the three-man shortlist for the 2015 edition of the prestigious award along with Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Current holder Ronaldo and Messi have already won the award six times between them.

Portugal international Ronaldo (29) scooped the prize for the second time last year and is again considered the favourite having scored 50 goals in 46 appearances for club and country in 2014.

He also helped Real win the Champions League, Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup.

Four-time winner Messi (27), who recently broke the overall goalscoring record in La Liga, helped Argentina to the World Cup final and won the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in Brazil.

Neuer (28) was one of the stars of Germany's World Cup success, winning the Golden Glove as best keeper. He is long established as number one for club and country and added two further medals to his collection as Bayern won a domestic double last season.

The trio were nominated for the award after initially being named on a long list of 23 candidates.

Germany's Joachim Low and Real's Carlo Ancelotti were nominated for coach of the year along with Diego Simeone, who guided Atletico Madrid to La Liga success and the Champions League final.

In the Goal of the Year category, Irish girl Stephanie Roche is nominated for the Puskas Award alongside World Cup efforts from Colombia's James Rodriguez and Netherlands' Robin van Persie,

Roche's stunning goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in October 2013, which has almost three million hits on YouTube, helped the 25 year-old earn a professional contract with French club ASPTT Albi.

It was an amazing move and strike and earned many plaudits.

The winners will be announced in Zurich on January 12.

Belfast Telegraph

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