Messi backed for hat-trick
Messi favourite to win FIFA Ballon d'Or award again
By Tim Clement - @SkyBet_Tim. Last Updated: December 5, 2011 5:33pm
Skysports.com readers and bookmakers are united in anticipating Lionel Messi claiming the game's top individual award for a third successive year.
The Barcelona frontman has been confirmed on the three-man final shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d'Or alongside team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi won the inaugural award last year after FIFA's World Player of the Year crown and France Football's Ballon d'Or prize merged, having won both titles the year before.
Messi enjoyed another decorated campaign last season in winning La Liga for a third successive time and his second UEFA Champions League title in three years.
Barca's continued dominance has earned his team-mate Xavi, who has finished third in the 2009 and 2010 Ballon d'Or lists, a place in the final three again, confirming his status as the game's top midfielder.
However, another third-placed finish looks on the cards with a mere eight percent of poll votes backing the playmaker, while Sky Bet make the 31-year-old a 16/1 outsider for the honour.
Real Madrid's Ronaldo is deemed the closest rival to Messi with 25 per cent of votes and odds of 5/1 to claim a second Ballon d'Or title, having previously won it in 2008.
The Portugal star has scored the same amount of goals as Messi in 2011, netting 53 times in all competitions, but significantly won just the Copa Del Rey in comparison to the European and league titles won by the holder.