Ballon d'Or 2012

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					A 23-man shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or was compiled by the FIFA Football
Committee and a group of experts from France Football. It was announced on 29

Four days earlier, a ten-player shortlist was unveiled for the FIFA's Women's
Player of the Year, which was chosen by experts from FIFA's Committee for
Women's Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup and a group of experts
from France Football.

You can read short profiles for each of the candidates below. From the shortlists,
journalists, national coaches and captains will vote for the winner of the FIFA
Ballon d’Or and the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.

The winners of all of the awards will be revealed at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala as
part of a televised show at the Zurich Kongresshaus on 7 January 2013.


Sergio “Kun” Agüero finished the 2011/12 season as Manchester City’s top
goalscorer in their successful quest for the Premier League title with 23 goals to
his name, nine more than his nearest rival, Edin Džeko. Agüero’s most important
strike was undoubtedly the 94th-minute winner in the Citizens’ 3-2 victory over
QPR that clinched the title. Maradona’s son-in-law played a key role in City’s
charge over the line, scoring seven goals and creating another three in the final
eight games. An injury sustained in August has checked his progress somewhat
this season as he looks to regain his stunning form of the last campaign.


Xabi Alonso is one of the pillars of both the Real Madrid and Spanish midfield,
not to mention one of the key figures in the success of both sides, often dictating
the pace of the game, bringing a sense of calm and rallying the troops. The Basque
midfielder can also be a match-winner, just as he was in Spain’s EURO 2012
quarter-final clash with France when he scored twice on the very day he won his
100th cap. Always composed in his defensive work, he is also known for the
quality of his searching passes, the accuracy of his free-kicks and his all-round
intelligent play.

Mario Balotelli has scored a number of important goals for Manchester City, but
his most telling contribution last season was his assist for Sergio Agüero to seal
City’s title in added time against QPR. For Italy, he thrilled the tifosi at EURO
2012 with a spectacular volley against the Republic of Ireland before putting
Germany to the sword in the semi-finals with a stunning brace. More recently, he
was excellent in Italy’s 3-1 win over Denmark in the race to qualify for the 2014
FIFA World Cup™.


Karim Benzema was an integral part of the Real Madrid side that won La Liga last
season, scoring 32 times and creating another 12 for his team-mates in all
competitions. In doing so, the French hitman scored one spectacular goal after the
next, including against Barça (after dinking the ball over Carles Puyol), against
Osasuna (with a volley from a tight angle à la Van Basten) and, most recently,
against Ajax (with an acrobatic overhead kick) as he cemented his place as José
Mourinho’s first choice to lead the Real line.

Gianluigi BUFFON

A key figure in Juventus’ title-winning team, Gigi Buffon is the charismatic leader
of Antonio Conte’s Old Lady side that was unbeaten in the 2011/12 season. The
Juve goalkeeper is also the No1 in the national team, an ever-dependable presence
in a side that did not have the best of preparations for EURO 2012 but ultimately
enjoyed an excellent tournament, despite a heavy 4-0 defeat in the final.


Sergio Busquets quietly set about establishing himself in the Barça side before
doing the same with Spain, for whom he has been first choice alongside Xabi
Alonso for the last three years. A defensive central midfielder by trade when not
called upon to fill in at centre-half, Busquets is a solid, hard-working, rangy
midfielder blessed with excellent technique and vision. Still just 24, this Catalan
star already has a long list of honours and experience beyond his years.

A true leader who is both respected and commanding, Iker Casillas is also an
imposing figure for opponents. Without him, Spain would not be European
champions, and Real Madrid would probably not have won the Spanish league
title. Casillas has been at the very top of the game for the past ten years, calling
upon his strong personality to show impressive consistency and efficiency, and
ultimately making fewer errors than other goalkeepers. He only conceded one
goal at EURO 2012 – against Italy in Spain’s opening match – en route to
becoming the first captain to lift a trophy in three consecutive major tournaments.


2012 was yet another glorious year for the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo. With
Portugal, he scored twice against the Netherlands and another against the Czech
Republic to propel his side to the semi-finals of EURO 2012, while with Real
Madrid, he won La Liga – scoring 46 goals along the way – and played a key role
in their run to the Champions League semi-finals, where he scored twice in the
second leg against Bayern Munich. Winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2008, he has
again started this season as he means to go on, scoring the winner against
Manchester City in the Champions League before claiming a hat-trick against
Ajax. In domestic action, he also scored twice against Barcelona to become the
first man to score at least one goal in six consecutive clásicos.


When Didier Drogba scored against Stoke City on 10 March 2012, he became the
first African to reach 100 goals in the Premier League, which although no mean
feat in itself, actually paled into significance just two months later at the UEFA
Champions League final. Not content with hauling Chelsea level against Bayern
with a thumping header in the 88th minute, Drogba went on to score the decisive
penalty in the shoot-out to seal the Blues’ triumph. For Drogba, it was his first
major European trophy, and it went some way towards making up for the penalty
he missed for Côte d’Ivoire in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations against
Zambia. Drogba has now left Chelsea and is currently playing for Shanghai
Shenhua in China PR.

Radamel Falcao is currently grabbing the headlines for both Atlético Madrid and
Colombia, scoring goal after goal and being the only man to keep pace with Messi
and Ronaldo in La Liga. The Colombian hot-shot is the complete, all-round
striker, and his brace in the UEFA Europa League final against Athletic Bilbao
ensured that he won the competition for the second year running (after winning it
with FC Porto in 2011), finishing as top scorer once again with 12 goals in 15
games. In August, he went one better by claiming a hat-trick in the UEFA Super
Cup final against Chelsea. Little wonder, therefore, that El Tigre is now a major
target for all of Europe’s heavyweights.


The Swedish giant shows no sign of letting up, finishing the 2011/12 season as the
top scorer in Serie A (with 28 goals for AC Milan) before taking his talents to
France, where he scored nine goals in his first nine games for Paris Saint-
Germain. His surprise transfer to PSG has propelled the club into a whole new
dimension, with Ibrahimović’s talent, power and charisma currently lighting up
Ligue 1. With Sweden, he is still the man to turn to when the chips are down, as
he showed once again with his strike against France at EURO 2012 and, more
recently, his goal against Germany.


Still a spectacular and impressive figure in the Barcelona midfield, and often
standing head and shoulders above the rest, Andrés Iniesta took centre stage for
Spain once again in June, winning his second European Championship title and
being named as the best player, not only of the final, but also of the entire
tournament. As if that were not enough, he recently received the UEFA Best
Player in Europe award, ahead of Messi and Ronaldo, from UEFA President
Michel Platini.
Lionel MESSI

Even though Barcelona did not lift a major trophy in 2012 – the Copa del Rey
aside – Lionel Messi continued to go from strength to strength, amassing goals
and records along the way. His achievements in 2012 included becoming Barça’s
all-time leading goalscorer in official matches when he scored his 233rd goal on
20 March, breaking the record for the number of UEFA Champions League goals
in a single season (14) and, with his 72 goals in all competitions, he came close to
breaking the record held by the legendary Pelé (75 goals). The three-time Ballon
d’Or winner was no less impressive for Argentina either, helping them dominate
the South American FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Manuel NEUER

On 25 April, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer kept Real Madrid at bay almost
single-handedly in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Commanding
his line much like a handball goalkeeper, Neuer repelled efforts from Cristiano
Ronaldo, Kaká and Sergio Ramos to make sure that the Bavarians qualified at the
expense of Real. In the final, he saved Juan Mata’s penalty before calmly stepping
up to convert one himself, although it was ultimately in vain as Chelsea came out
on top. With Germany, he was powerless to prevent Balotelli’s two goals in
Italy’s 2-1 victory in the semi-finals of EURO 2012.


On 16 October, Neymar scored twice in a 4-0 victory for Brazil over Japan in a
friendly match in Poland before flying home that same night to make his 200th
appearance for Santos – at the tender age of 20 – the very next day, when he once
again scored a crucial goal. It was just the next in a long line of achievements for
this Brazilian prodigy in 2012, including two goals and three assists against
Bolivar and a hat-trick against Internacional in the Copa Libertadores. He was
also part of the Brazilian team that won silver at the Olympic Games in London,
scoring three goals and creating another four, but even he could not prevent Brazil
slipping to defeat against Mexico in the final.

Even though Mesut Özil could not quite manage to pull the strings as he would
have liked for Germany in 2012, he still stood out for Real Madrid. His 17 assists
– including 16 for Cristiano Ronaldo – ensured that he finished his first
championship-winning season as the top passer in La Liga. He was also one of the
stand-out performers in each clásico.

Gerard PIQUE

Once again, as in 2011, Gerard Piqué was not spared the ordeal of injury setbacks
in 2012, but he still played in most major matches for Barcelona and Spain,
frequently standing out with his elegant defending but also with his impressive
dribbling and passing skills, not to mention his impeccable technique. At EURO
2012, Piqué formed a rock-solid partnership with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.

Andrea PIRLO

Blessed with the ability to play passes of surgical precision, coupled with
incredible vision and impressive technique, 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo is winning
more plaudits than ever before on the back of his midfield mastery. Since moving
to Juventus from AC Milan, Pirlo has become a key member of Antonio Conte’s
side, leading them to the Italian league title in 2012. Cesare Prandelli also made
him captain of impressive EURO 2012 finalists Italy.


Although equally at home at right-back, Sergio Ramos has caught the eye with his
performances at centre-half, having been moved there by Real Madrid coach José
Mourinho as well as by Spain’s Vicente del Bosque. With his never-say-die
attitude, his eye for a counter-attack and his impressive heading ability, he has
made a significant contribution to both teams’ success. At EURO 2012, he was a
lynchpin of the Spanish defence, particularly against France in the quarters and
against Portugal in the semis, when he even pulled off a “Panenka” in the penalty

With 14 goals between February and May 2012, Wayne Rooney was
indispensable for Manchester United, even though his efforts in front of goal were
not quite enough for the Red Devils to hold off the challenge of their cross-city
rivals in the race for the title. Rooney’s overall tally of 27 was not enough for him
to be crowned as the Premier League’s top goalscorer either, an accolade that
went to Robin van Persie with 30, and although he also found the back of the net
at EURO 2012, England bowed out at the quarter-final stage. An injury sustained
at the start of the new Premier League season kept “Wazza” out for a month, but
he bounced back to goalscoring ways with a brace against Stoke City on 20


Yaya Touré was a key figure in Manchester City’s successful 2011/12 Premier
League campaign, acting as the heartbeat, inspiration and driving force behind
Roberto Mancini’s champions. Named in the Premier League Team of the Season,
the Ivorian midfielder (attacking or defensive, depending on the needs of his
coach) scored six goals, including a crucial brace in a 2-0 win over Newcastle
United on the penultimate matchday of the season. He also played a major role in
Côte d’Ivoire’s qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations 2013, helping the team
bounce back from their unfortunate defeat on penalties by Zambia in the final of
the 2012 edition.


Although no major team titles came his way in 2012, Robin van Persie was
unstoppable in front of goal, finishing as the Premier League’s top scorer with 30
goals for Arsenal. This season, the Dutch striker will be aiming to defend his
crown in a Manchester United shirt after his move in August. Since the start of the
year, he has scored four braces and two hat-tricks (against Blackburn Rovers for
Arsenal in February, and against Southampton for United in September).


Xavi Hernández has now played more league matches for Barcelona than anyone
else and also won more trophies – 20 and counting – with the Catalan giants than
anyone else before him. Time is showing no sign of affecting this midfield
dynamo, who still makes Barcelona and Spain tick by pulling the strings from the
centre of the pitch to bring his team-mates into the best possible positions.
Although he picked up his fair share of knocks along the way in 2012, he still
shone in all of his teams’ major games, not least in the final of EURO 2012 with
two crucial assists.

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