By Patrick Johnston
Real Madrid’s blockbuster ‘BBC’ forward line and Barcelona’s devastating ‘MSN’ trio are set to go head-to-head for the 2015 Ballon d’Or award after all six were named on the 23-man shortlist by FIFA on Tuesday.
Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who set a club scoring record with his 324th goal on Saturday, will be going in search of his third consecutive World Player of the Year award.
He faces competition from his team-mates Karim Benzema of France and Welshman Gareth Bale who make up the Spanish side’s ‘BBC’ frontline.
Joining them are four-time winner Lionel Messi, the Argentine great, and his fellow South American strikers Neymar and Luis Suarez who form Barcelona’s feared ‘MSN’ frontline that fired a combined 122 goals last season.
Barcelona, who won La Liga, the Champions League and domestic cup last year, have the most players on the shortlist with Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta, Argentine defender Javier Mascherano and Croatian Ivan Rakitic joining their front three on the award.
Real have five with Colombian James Rodriguez and German World Cup-winner Toni Kroos also named.
German champions Bayern Munich also have five representatives with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Arturo Vidal and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Vidal is joined by Chilean compatriot Alexis Sanchez after their Copa America success in July.
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure, winner of the last four African Player of the Year awards, is the only non European or South American to make the list.
The list was composed by the FIFA Football Committee and a group of experts from France Football. The winner will be announced in Zurich on January 11.
Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City)
Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid)
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City)
Eden Hazard (Belgium/Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain)
Andres Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona)
Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid)
Robert Lewandowski (Poland/Bayern Munich)
Javier Mascherano (Argentina/Barcelona)
Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona)
Thomas Mueller (Germany/Bayern Munich)
Manuel Neuer (Germany/Bayern Munich)
Paul Pogba (France/Juventus)
Ivan Rakitic (Croatia/Barcelona)
Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich)
James Rodríguez (Colombia/Real Madrid)
Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal)
Luis Suarez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona)
Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast/Manchester City)
Arturo Vidal (Chile/Bayern Munich).