Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi lead the contenders on the 23-man shortlist for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award, with three members of Leicester City’s title-winning squad also in contention.
Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, who has since joined Chelsea, have been named on the shortlist in recognition of their roles in Leicester’s shock Premier League title success last season. Claudio Ranieri is also a leading contender for the top coach award.
Top names on the list include Portugal captain Ronaldo — who enjoyed success in the Champions League and Euro 2016 this year — and Real Madrid teammates Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric, plus Barcelona’s Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta.
Atletico Madrid and France forward Antoine Griezmann, a finalist in the Champions League and European Championship, is another contender, along with international teammate Dimitri Payet.
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who both missed out on a place on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, are also included.
Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are in the 23-man selection despite difficult starts to the season, while Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero also make the cut.
Goalkeepers Manuel Neuer, of Germany and Bayern Munich, and Gianluigi Buffon, of Italy and Juventus are on the list along with Bayern and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski.
FIFA announced this week that its rebranded “The Best” awards will be decided by a combination of votes from national coaches and captains, journalists and fans. Voting for the player and coach awards, in both men’s and women’s football, closes on Nov. 22.
The 23-man list is due to be reduced to three candidates on Dec. 2 ahead of the Jan. 9 ceremony.
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated FIFA’s annual award, formerly known as the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year, since 2008. Messi has won five times and Ronaldo three.
Ronaldo was seen as favourite under the old voting rules to win for 2016 because Portugal won the European Championship and Real Madrid won the Champions League. Messi and Argentina lost to Chile in the Copa America final.
The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 shortlist
Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City), Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City), Antoine Griezmann (France/Atletico Madrid), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United), Andres Iniesta (Spain/FC Barcelona), N’Golo Kante (France/Leicester City/Chelsea), Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Leicester City), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia/Real Madrid), Manuel Neuer (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona), Mesut Ozil (Germany/Arsenal), Dimitri Payet (France/West Ham United), Paul Pogba (France/Juventus/Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid), Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal), Luis Suarez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona), Jamie Vardy (England/Leicester City).