New Delhi: France and Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann becomes the latest force to challenge the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly as FIFA revealed the three finalists for the 2016 Men's Best Player Award.
Football's world governing body on Friday pruned the list from the 23-player list to the final three – Messi, Ronaldo and Griezmann. The winner will be announced at the annual FIFA gala on January 9 in Zurich.
The fight to world's best player award has been reduced to a direct duel between Messi and Ronaldo. And the arrival Griezmann is likely to be seen as just another round of another talent making up the numbers.
Ronaldo, who helped Portugal and Real Madrid to Champions League and 2016 Euro titles, will be the favourite to pick the award.
Griezmann, unluckily, was the runners up in both the occasions.
According to FIFA, "Ronaldo had an outstanding year in continental competitions, securing his third UEFA Champions League title, his second for Real Madrid, finishing as top scorer with 16 goals on the way to the final – in which the Portuguese scored the winning penalty in the shootout against Los Blancos’ rivals Atletico Madrid."
Six weeks later, he captained his country to their first major trophy, scoring three goals to help his side to a final where he was restricted to just 25 minutes of action, but provided a memorable performance in helping to cajole his team to victory from the sideline."
About the reigning player of the year, it said, "Argentina and Barcelona’s talisman Messi had yet another phenomenal year, guiding his side to a league and cup double, scoring 26 goals in an incredibly tight La Liga title race, and captaining his country to the final of the Copa America Centenario."
Ultimately, the national team glory with Argentina he craves was denied him by Chile once more, with La Roja defeating La Albiceleste on penalties in the finale. It was, however another fruitful year for the No10, who stepped past Gabriel Batistuta as his country’s outright top goalscorer during the Copa America Centenario."
FIFA hailed Griezmann's improvement over the last year, and listed his many achievements.
"After steadily improving in recent years, Griezmann announced himself as one of the world’s outstanding players this year thanks, in part, to his performances on home soil at UEFA EURO 2016.
"The diminutive forward, often found in a ‘9.5’ role between the forward line and midfield, was top scorer in the tournament as he helped his country reach the final, only to be defeated by Ronaldo’s Portugal. The Frenchman also ended the 2015-16 season as his club side’s top goalscorer, helping Atleti to third in La Liga, and to a tight final defeat to Ronaldo’s Real in the Champions League," FIFA wrote.
In the women's section, German Olympic champion Melanie Behringer will go up against Brazilian legend Marta and US star Carli Lloyd.
For the award for best coach, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will fight against Leicester's Claudio Ranieri and Portugal's Fernando Santos.
Women's best coach award will be given either to US boss Jill Ellis, Germany`s Silvia Neid or Sweden`s Pia Sundhage.
BTW, FIFA have ended their Ballon d'Or collaboration with France Football this year, and subsequently launched their own separate annual prize for the world's top performing player with host of other awards.