Messi among 23 for Ballon d’Or

ZURICH: Lionel Messi is in the running for a fourth consecutive FIFA world player of the year award.Twenty-three candidates were announced on Monday, and Messi was joined by Barcelona team mates Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez on the Ballon d’Or shortlist.In total, seven players for Spain are in contention, unsurprisingly 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.Italian players are in the mix for the first time in three years – Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Juventus players Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon.The final decisions will be made by the captains and coaches of the national teams and international media representatives, before an announcement of the three finalists on November 29 in Sao Paulo.The winner will then be announced on January 7 at a ceremony in Zurich along with the presentation of the Presidential and Fair Play awards. (AP)