Messi

Messi is the defending holder of the award and is favourite to win it again this year. Picture - Reuters.

The 23-man shortlist for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or is dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid players, who make up more than half of the nominees.

Barcelona have eight squad members in the running while Real Madrid have five. Wayne Rooney is the only English player to make the list while Sergio Aguero, Nani and Luis Suarez are the only other English based players still in the hunt.

As is the case in recent years, Lionel Messi is the front-runner for the award, having won the inaugural trophy last year, although he will face a tough fight from Catalan team-mates Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Eric Abidal and surprisingly Cesc Fabregas who was injured for most part of last season and was patchy with his performances for Arsenal.

Real Madrid is represented by Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a strong contender to oust Messi from the top-spot, while Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil are the others make up the numbers from the Spanish giant.

German and Bayern Munich duo Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller and Inter Milan top-guns Diego Forlan and Wesley Sneijder are also in the list, while Africa's sole representative is Samuel Eto'o, currently playing for Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.

Brazilian Neymar is the only player in the list who plies his trade outside Europe.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho could lose the FIFA World Coach of the Year award he won last year to Barcelona's Pep Guardiola after he led his Catalan side to the top prizes in Spain and Europe .

FIFA Ballon d'Or men's shortlist - Eric Abidal, Sergio Agüero, Karim Benzema, Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Samuel Eto'o, Cesc Fàbregas, Diego Forlán, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Thomas Müller, Nani, Neymar, Mesut Özil, Gerard Piqué, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wesley Sneijder, Luis Suárez, David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Xavi.