Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi vs. Franck Ribery for 2013 Ballon d'Or
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to win the award for the second time in his career. The forward is enjoying the most productive year at Real Madrid while he also fired Portugal to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a hat-trick during their playoff match with Sweden.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery shortlisted for 2013 Ballon d'Or
- The winner will be announced in Zurich on January 13
- Alex Ferguson, Jupp Heynckes and Jurgen Klopp up for the coaching accolade
- Women's winner to come from shortlist of Marta, Abby Wambach and Nadine Angerer
(CNN) -- Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery will battle it out for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, football's most prestigious individual accolade.
Global governing body FIFA whittled down the initial 23-man list to a final shortlist of three players, with the winner set to be announced during the annual Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich on January 13.
Barcelona and Argentina No. 10 Messi is hoping to be crowned the world's leading player for a record fifth year in a row, but he faces stiff competition from Real Madrid's Ronaldo.
Portugal captain Ronaldo is the favorite to clinch the award for the second time in his career, having previously won it as a Manchester United player in 2008, after a year which has seen him outscore Messi while also firing his country to next year's World Cup in Brazil.
France's Ribery was a key player in the Bayern Munich team which won a European Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble in 2013.
The World Cup brings 32 nations together to compete in the "beautiful game," and each country's fans are just as boisterous as the last. Click through to see fans from all of the 32 countries that will be competing in this year's soccer tournament in Brazil. Above, an Algeria supporter.
Photos: World Cup: 32 nations and their fans
Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
CNN rating: Contender
Can anyone dethrone Messi? The Argentine has lifted the prize in each of the last four years and once again starred for Barcelona during the 2012-13 season as they romped to the Spanish title, scoring 46 goals during a victorious La Liga campaign.
2013 Ballon d'Or nominees
FIFA also announced the three men in the running for the coach of the year accolade.
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is nominated for guiding the Old Trafford club to a record 20th English championship.
The Scot called time on his glittering 26-year reign at United in May.
Jupp Heynckes also stepped aside at the end of last season after leading Bayern to an historic treble.
The German veteran is nominated alongside Jurgen Klopp, whose Borussia Dortmund team lost to Heynckes' Bayern in the Champions League final but won many admirers with their vibrant, attacking football.
The world's leading female player will also be crowned. Brazilian star Marta is once again nominated for the award having won it five years in a row between 2006 and 2010.
Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer saved two penalties in a 1-0 win over Norway in the final of Euro 2013, with American Abby Wambach completing the shortlist after becoming the leading goalscorer in international football history.
Read: 2014 World Cup groups drawn
Read: Wambach breaks goalscoring record
Part of complete coverage on
The U.S. government recognizes Kosovo, as do most European states, but getting football's ruling bodies to play ball has proved harder.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Ask France's World Cup hero Patrick Vieira, who is rediscovering his roots.
CNN's John Sinnott on the quiet Cambridge graduate behind Liverpool's resurgent campaign.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
They are the dispossessed -- stateless, and unrecognized by football's ruling body. But these teams will still play at their own World Cup.
Louis van Gaal will be a perfect fit for Manchester United the club, business and brand, says CNN's Patrick Snell.
May 19, 2014 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
There's a new force in Spanish football -- and Atletico Madrid's ascendance is sharply contrasted by the fall from power of Barcelona.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Rubber bullets, drones and FBI-trained riot police. Welcome to Brazil's 2014 World Cup -- will protests overshadow football's showpiece event?
May 9, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
The former England international, who famously kicked a banana off the pitch 27 years ago, says education is the key to tackling racism.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1603 GMT (0003 HKT)
The Brazilian star's first season in Spain may have spluttered along, but the 22-year-old says he'll be firing on all cylinders at the World Cup.
April 30, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
Former Soviet footballer Sergei Baltacha traveled from the land of the hammer and sickle to join The Tractor Boys and in doing so broke new ground.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Villarreal football supporter who threw a banana at Barcelona's Dani Alves during league match handed a life ban by the La Liga club.
Today's five most popular stories