Football: All 3 finalists from La Liga

Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar to vie for Ballon d'Or, Messi voted Spanish league's top striker

A composite file picture of Ballon d'Or nominees Lionel Messi (left), Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) and Neymar.
A composite file picture of Ballon d'Or nominees Lionel Messi (left), Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) and Neymar. PHOTO: EPA

MADRID • On a night when Barcelona star Lionel Messi was voted the top striker in the Spanish league last season ahead of Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, La Liga was the guaranteed winner at next month's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

Messi and Ronaldo will again come face to face for the prestigious Fifa award, with Neymar completing a three-man shortlist.

Messi and Neymar, however, would rather Barcelona be assured of boasting the best player of the year. The duo felt that team-mate Luis Suarez should have survived the cull, when 23 players nominated by world football governing body Fifa and France Football magazine were whittled down to three on Monday.

"I'd have liked to be on (the) Ballon d'Or podium with Neymar and Luis," said Messi.

"Luis deserved it but Cristiano also did well."

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Barca's attacking trident collectively scored 125 goals over the last calendar year - no team in Europe netted more.

The trio led the Catalan giants to a treble of La Liga, King's Cup and Champions League titles last season before winning the Uefa Super Cup this year.

"Being nominated for Ballon d'Or means a lot," said Neymar.

He is in the final three for the first time and could end a Messi-Ronaldo duopoly that began in 2008.

One has to go back to 2007 to find a winner other than Messi or Ronaldo - when Brazilian star Kaka, then at AC Milan, claimed the biggest individual prize in world football.

"Suarez should have been there too but Messi is favourite, he's the number one for me," added Brazil captain Neymar.

Messi has already won the Ballon d'Or a record four times and holder Ronaldo admitted that he was expecting the Argentine to win again.

"To be honest, I think Messi is going to win this year because this kind of trophy, it depends on votes," the Portuguese, without a team title last season, said last month during an appearance on ITV's The Jonathan Ross Show.

"You win competitions, you win the Champions League, you win the league in terms of individual.

"I did probably the best season of my career which is good and I was the highest scorer in Europe (but) it's all about votes."

The Ballon d'Or votes come from national team coaches and captains as well as leading journalists, with the winner announced at a ceremony in Zurich on Jan 11.

Where the votes for La Liga's best striker for last season were concerned, Messi came out triumphant on Monday following a poll of the captains of each of Spain's top-flight sides.

He was also selected as the league's top player following a computer analysis of the players' statistics in the championship.

It is the sixth time that the Argentine, who scored 43 goals last season, has won both titles in seven editions of the trophy given by the Spanish football league.

Ronaldo claimed both in 2013-14.

"I'm proud to receive this award ahead of so many important players in La Liga," said the 28-year-old.

"This award, in particular, I want to dedicate to my son Thiago (aged three) even if he still doesn't understand very well.

"Every time I leave the house, he gets angry and asks me: 'Papa, are you going again to score goals?'

"This award is for him."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'ALL 3 FINALISTS FROM LA LIGA'. Subscribe