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September 23, 2017

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Messi a contender for world player award

ZURICH -- Lionel Messi is in the running for a fourth consecutive FIFA world player of the year award after being selected Monday among the 23 candidates for the 2012 prize.

Messi and Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez are on the Ballon d'Or shortlist, while archrivals Real Madrid lead the way with six nominees, including last year's runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo.

Earlier on Monday, Messi was presented with his second Golden Boot award in recognition for scoring the most goals in Europe's domestic leagues last season.

A total of seven Spain internationals are in contention after the national team retained its European Championship title in July.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is again the only England player on the list. United teammate Robin van Persie is also included after being the Premier League's leading scorer last season for Arsenal.

Italian players feature for the first time in three years as Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Juventus duo Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon have been nominated.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque will be favored to win the world coach of the year award, while Roberto Di Matteo — who was only an assistant at the beginning of the year — is also on the 10-candidate list after leading Chelsea to the Champions League and FA Cup trophies.

No current Chelsea player was on the list, although former striker Didier Drogba was included.

Roberto Mancini has been included among the managers after steering Manchester City to the Premier League title. Cesare Prandelli, whose Italy team lost to Spain in the Euro 2012 final, is also in the running.

Long-serving Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has been nominated despite failing to win a trophy last season. The 2011 winner Pep Guardiola — who left Barcelona at the end of last season — is also on the list.

The leading three candidates from each list will be announced Nov. 29 in Brazil, with the winners presented at a televised ceremony in Zurich on Jan. 7.

Voting is by national team coaches and captains, and journalists invited by joint organizer "France Football" magazine.

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