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Ronaldo favourite to end Leo’s reign

London: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery will fight it out for the title of the world’s best player after Fifa announced its shortlist for the 2013 Ballon d’Or.

The winner will be revealed at the Fifa Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich on Jan. 13, 2014.

Argentina and Barcelona forward Messi has won the award for the world’s best player in each of the last four years, while Portugal and Real Madrid forward Ronaldo won the award in 2008.

Despite not winning any silverware last season, Ronaldo is the favourite to end Messi’s reign as officially the world’s best player. The 28-year-old has scored 25 goals for Madrid this season and bagged a stunning hat-trick as Portugal beat Sweden in a World Cup qualifying play-off to reach next year’s finals in Brazil.

Messi scored 56 times for Barcelona last season, helping the Catalans win the Spanish title while Ribery helped to a treble — Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup.

Ribery can also fancy his chances after being named Uefa’s best player in Europe for the 2012-13 season. He was the favourite to win the award until Fifa’s surprising announcement to re-open voting the morning after Portugal’s playoff victory in Stockholm. Speculation about the governing body’s motives was fuelled by a bizarre public spat weeks earlier between Ronaldo and Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter offended the 2008 award winner with comments and mimicry when addressing students at Oxford University in England.

Contrasting Messi’s humble, low-key personality with Ronaldo’s apparent vanity, Blatter then stood to act out what he described as the Portugal winger’s “commander in the field” stature.

Ronaldo responded in a barbed statement and celebrated a goal in his next match with a mock military salute gesture.

The Portuguese government got involved to defend its national hero, and the dispute seemed to confirm to Madrid fans and media that Fifa is biased toward Barcelona, even though Ballon d’Or ballots are cast independently.

Gareth Bale, world’s richest player, did not make the cut despite scoring 26 goals for Tottenham Hotspur last season. Alex Ferguson, who retired after helming Manchester United for 26 years, is nominated for the Fifa World Coach of the Year award alongside another former manager, Jupp Heynckes, who led Bayern to the Champions League title.

Jurgen Klopp, whose Borussia Dortmund lost the all-German final to Bayern, is the third nominee.

Five-time Fifa’s Women’s Player of the Year Marta of Brazil is shortlisted for the 2013 award alongside 2012 winner Abby Wambach of the US. Germany’s Nadine Angerer is the third player on the shortlist. Paris St Germain’s Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to make the final Ballon d’Or shortlist although he is in contention for the Puskas Award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” for his long-range overhead volley against England in November 2012. (Agencies)