Ready for the least surprising news you've ever heard? FIFA announced on Monday morning that FC Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Xavi, along with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, are the three finalists for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or. FIFA used to give out a World Player of the Year award while the Ballon d'Or was awarded separately to the best player in Europe, but they have been combined into one award. The only player outside of Europe to receive a nomination was Neymar of Santos FC.
Ronaldo was La Liga's leading scorer with 40 goals last season, while Messi scored 31. Messi also led La Liga in assists. In all competitions, the two tied with 53 goals, though Ronaldo did it in one less game. Xavi's brilliance isn't as easily quantified, but he's thought of by many as the engine that makes Barcelona go, even more so than Messi. He regularly completed well over 90 percent of his passes and 100 or more total passes in matches last season.
All three are off to spectacular stars to this season. Barcelona and Real Madrid are both through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and in the top two spots in La Liga ahead of El Clasico on Saturday.
For more on the two teams, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes. Check out SB Nation Soccer for coverage of Real and Barca's Champions League matches this week. For more from around the world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.