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Messi in the running for fourth FIFA player of the year award

ZURICH (AP) -- Lionel Messi is in the running for a fourth consecutive FIFA world player of the year award.

Twenty-three candidates were announced Monday, and Messi was joined by Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez on the Ballon d'Or shortlist.

Seven players for Spain are in contention after the national team retained its European Championship title in July. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is again the only England player on the list.

Italian players are in the mix for the first time in three years - Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Juventus players Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon.

The leading three candidates will be announced Nov. 29 in Brazil. The winner will be announced Jan. 7 in Zurich.

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