The 2011-12 UEFA Best Player in Europe award candidate list is down to three La Liga standouts.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo made the shortlist for the award, which is being given out for the second year. Messi won last year's inaugural award beating out Xavi and Ronaldo, respectively, while Iniesta finished fourth.
The three made the final cut after the initial list of 32 players, which was voted on by journalists from each UEFA country, was released last month. The winner will be crowned after a final vote on Aug. 30 in Monaco, at the draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage. While Messi is coming off a record-setting goal-scoring season, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to the Spanish title; Iniesta, meanwhile, had a strong Barcelona campaign while winning Golden Ball honors at Euro 2012 for leading Spain to its second straight title.
The players who missed out on the shortlist to round out the top 10 in voting, respectively, were Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Iker Casillas, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Radamel Falcao and Mesut Ozil.
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BARTON LOAN MOVE THWARTED
QPR's scheme to speed up Joey Barton's 12-match ban has been thwarted.
The club was reportedly hoping to loan him to a League Two side, where more games are played at a faster rate, but The Football League said that it would block any such move in an effort to maintain the integrity of the FA's ruling.
Barton was banned for his actions in the regular season finale against Manchester City and was found guilty of two acts of violent conduct. He had been training with fourth-tier side Fleetwood.
SPURS BID UNSUCCESSFULLY FOR LLORIS, RAMIREZ
Tottenham's advances at securing Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Bologna forward Gaston Ramirez have both been turned away.
Tottenham has reportedly been after a goalkeeper for the future for the duration of the offseason, with Lloris, France's No. 1, being the prime candidate.
Tottenham is also out to improve its front line, but Ramirez, a Uruguayan Olympian, is set to stay at Bologna unless Tottenham can improve its offer for his weekly salary, according to the player's agent. Tottenham reportedly offered Bologna €16 million for the 21-year-old forward, but unless the club can improve on the personal terms offered, no deal will be completed.
BALOTELLI OUT FOR ENGLAND CLASH
Those hoping to see Mario Balotelli go up against England on Wednesday are out of luck. The mercurial Manchester City and Italian national team striker has been ruled out for the Italy-England friendly in Switzerland after coming down with a case of conjunctivitis.
Balotelli has been replaced on Italy's roster by Diego Fabbrini and will miss out on the rematch from the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, which was won by Italy on penalty kicks.
Do you think Iniesta or Ronaldo should unseat Messi as the best player in Europe? Surprised at any players who did not finish in the top 10 of the voting? What do you think of QPR reportedly trying to speed up Barton's punishment? Do you think Ramirez would be a good signing for Tottenham? Disappointed that Balotelli won't take part in the Italy-England friendly?
Share your thoughts below.