Manchester United and City stars plump out Ballon d’Or shortlist – Lionel Messi primed for historic win

By Dean Wilkins

The European and World Cup champions Spain are dominating this year’s Ballon d’Or nominations, but Manchester United and Manchester City have scooped seven nods between them.

The 23-man list for the prestigious football award includes seven members of Spain’s Euro 2012-winning squad, as well as three-time victor Lionel Messi and former United ace Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wayne Rooney is the only Englishman on the list and joins new teammate Robin van Persie on the list for Player of the Year – City boast three stars as Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero were all picked.

And both managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini are on the list to claim the Manager of the Year award.

Only Mancini won silverware with the club last season and leading the Blues to their first Premier League title – both bosses watched as their sides were eliminated from the Champions League group stages and Europa League.

Vincente del Bosque and Roberto Di Matteo are favourites for to claim the award – the latter earned Chelsea’s first-ever European Cup win.

Del Bosque also masterminded Spain’s successful defence of the European Championship, becoming the first country to defend the honour while his opponent in the final Cesare Prandelli is also a nominee.

Messi could be the first person win the award four times and is a strong favourite to fend off his closest rival Ronaldo after netting 73 goals in a season.

The winners of all the awards will be revealed at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala on January 7, 2013.

Player nominees: Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Karim Benzema (France), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Sergio Busquets (Spain), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Radamel Falcao (Colombia), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique (Spain), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Holland), Xavi (Spain).

Coach nominees: Vicente del Bosque (Spain/Spain national team), Roberto Di Matteo (Italy/Chelsea), Alex Ferguson (Scotland/Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (Spain/Barcelona former coach), Jupp Heynckes (Germany/Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Germany/Borussia Dortmund), Joachim Low (Germany/Germany national team), Roberto Mancini (Italy/Manchester City), Jose Mourinho (Portugal/Real Madrid), Cesare Prandelli (Italy/Italy national team).

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