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As the 23-man shortlist for the award was announced, Bet365 have priced the Barcelona forward to get the better of his Real Madrid rival

Despite a shortlist being announced, it appears the bookmakers believe the award of the 2012 Fifa Ballon d'Or is already a three horse race.

Three Liga superstars lead the way, with Lionel Messi the odds-on favourite at 8/13 (1.62) to collect the award for a fourth consecutive season with Paddy Power.

Cristiano Ronaldo is seen as one of the two legitimate candidates that could challenge Messi, with the Real Madrid man having finished second behind the Argentine in both 2011 and 2009. Ronaldo is available at 5/2 (3.50) with the same firm.

Andres Iniesta is a 5/1 (6.0) chance and following that, the likes of Andrea Pirlo (50/1), Iker Casillas (66/1) and Xavi (66/1) are deemed long-shot outsiders.

Messi scored 73 goals in all competitions in the 2011-12 season, as Barcelona finished runners-up behind Real Madrid, with Ronaldo playing an important role in the victory and scoring an impressive 60 goals for his club in all competitions.

His contribution to Los Blancos' title winning season, and pivotal role in Portugal's Euro 2012 campaign, could make this the 27-year-old's best chance to win the award since he did so in 2008 and punters could profit from the 5/2 (3.50) quote.

Iniesta finished second behind his Barcelona team-mate in 2010, during Spain's World Cup winning year, and the defence of their European crown in Poland and Ukraine this summer sees him rated as the only other player who has a realistic chance of winning the award at 5/1 (6.0).

Once again though, it looks to be a choice between the two players that have dominated the top places in recent years.

Messi and Ronaldo have finished in first and second in three of the last four seasons and despite an impressive year for Iniesta, it seems unlikely that the 28-year-old midfielder will stop that statistic being extended.

The three finalists will be announced on November 29th in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The final show will take place on January 7th in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Jim Knight is Betting Editor at Goal.com and has been tipping football games since he was old enough to place a bet. He is a Leicester City fan, writer and member of the We Are Going Up Podcast

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