ZURICH: Antoine Griezmann is the new challenger to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for FIFA’s annual player award.
FIFA said on Friday the France forward is on a three-man shortlist for the rebranded Best Player Award. All three candidates play for Spanish clubs.
Claudio Ranieri and Fernando Santos, the men behind two of the year’s biggest surprises, were nominated for the best coach award alongside Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane.
Germany’s Melanie Behringer, last year’s winner Carli Lloyd of the United States and Brazil’s five-time winner Marta were nominated for the women’s player of the year award.
The title of best women’s coach will go either to US handler Jill Ellis, Germany’s Silvia Neid or Sweden’s Pia Sundhage.
Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and an online poll of fans.
Ronaldo helped Portugal win Euro 2016, although his performances were often criticised and he was injured early in the final against France, and he won the Champions League with Real Madrid.
Messi had a less stellar year by his exacting standards but led Argentina to the final of the Copa Centenario, where they lost to Chile, and won La Liga with Barcelona.
Greizmann’s teams, France and Atletico Madrid, were beaten by Ronaldo’s Portugal and Real in the finals of the European Championship and Champions League.
Ronaldo and Messi have shared the award since 2008, with Messi winning five times to Ronaldo’s three, and it was the sixth time in a row both have featured in the final shortlist of three.
Ronaldo won in 2008, 2013, 2014 with Messi second on each occasion. Messi won from 2009-12 and again last year with Ronaldo second on every occasion except in 2010 when Andres Iniesta was runner-up.
Real Madrid’s Zidane will vie with Leicester City miracle worker Ranieri and Portugal boss Santos for the title of top coach.
Despite being a relative coaching novice, Zidane led Real to the Champions League after replacing Rafael Benitez mid-season at the Bernabeu.
Ranieri shocked the football world when he led Leicester to the English Premier League title against all the odds while Santos ensured Portugal finally broke their major title duck.
“I am getting better day by day and continue to learn. But maybe it is too early for me to be up there among the three nominees,” Zidane reflected modestly.
The first FIFA award was held in 1991 when it was won by German Lothar Matthaeus while the women’s player of the year of the award has been held every year since 2001.
From 2010 to last year inclusive, the awards were organised jointly with France Football magazine and known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Following the split with the French publication, the ceremony, which will be held in Zurich on Jan. 9, has been renamed “The Best FIFA Football Awards”.