Zurich: Superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi along with English Premier League champions Leicester City’s trio — Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’golo Kante — lead the 23-man shortlist for global football governing body FIFA’s men’s player of the year award.
The contenders for the coveted award, titled The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award, also include Ronaldo’s Spanish club Real Madrid team-mates Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric and arch-rivals FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta.
Atletico Madrid and France forward Antoine Griezmann, a Champions League and 2016 Euro finalist, is a contender, along with his country mate Dimitri Payet, according to the list released by FIFA on Friday.
English club Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were also named.
Manchester United pair Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are in the select list alongwith Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.
Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Italy and Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon are also on the list.
The voting for the award closes on November 22.
The 23-man list is due to be reduced to three candidates on December 2. The ceremony to name the best player will be held on January 9 next year.
Portugal captain Ronaldo is the strongest contender to win due to his Champions League and 2016 Euro successes this year
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the annual award since 2008. Messi has won it five times and Ronaldo thrice.