ZURICH: FIFA said Friday it had drawn up a shortlist of 23 candidates for its Best Men’s Player of 2016 with luminaries such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barcelona’s Messi and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo have dominated almost a decade of accolades between them but also in the mix this time are Manchester United’s world record signing from Juventus Paul Pogba as well as fellow France international Antoine Griezman of Atletico Madrid.
In a nod to Leicester City’s improbable English Premier League title win midfielder N’Golo Kante, who has since moved to Chelsea, also makes the provisional list along with former teammates Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, as does West Ham’s France striker Dimitri Payet.
Ronaldo is seen as favourite following a season in which he won the Champions League for the second time with Real — having also won with Manchester United — and also helping Portugal to Euro 2016 glory, though he was injured early on in the final win over France.
Ronaldo’s clubmate Gareth Bale is also on the list for his Madrid showings but also his role in helping Wales to the Euro 2016 semi-finals, where Ronaldo’s Portuguese ended their hopes.
FIFA will make the award on January 9 in Zurich and also honour the top coach of 2016.
France boss Didier Deschamps and his former France teammate Zinedine Zidane, who led Real to the Champions League, are in the hunt.
Among those looking to be crowned top female player are last year’s winner Carli Lloyd of the United States who plays for Houston Dash and Brazilian star Marta of Swedish club Rosengard, who has won the award five times.
Three members of Germany’s Olympic gold medal winning team are also among the ten-woman shortlist — Bayern Munich midfielders Melanie Behringer and Sara Dabritz, and Lyon’s Dzsenifer Marozsan.
The coaches and skippers of national sides will vote for the various categories but a public internet vote will also be taken into account as will the views of 200 global media representatives.