Lionel Messi was left off the shortlist for the FIFA’s men’s player of the year award on Monday as his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo was named alongside Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah.
Messi has dominated the award along with Ronaldo over the past decade, but the Barcelona star has been omitted from the contenders list for the first time since 2006.
After featuring in the top three for 11 straight years, Messi was overlooked when the list was announced by football’s world governing body on Monday.
The 31-year-old Argentine was runner-up for the prestigious prize in 2007 and 2008 before winning it for the first of five times in 2009.
Messi and Ronaldo, the world’s two best players, have been engaged in a fascinating duel for the sport’s top individual and club honours for over a decade.
Between them, Messi and Ronaldo have won the Champions League nine times and have a combined 14 domestic league titles.
Now Messi’s absence from the shortlist opens the way for Ronaldo, also a five-time winner of the award, to move ahead in their personal battle.
Portugal forward Ronaldo lifted a fourth Champions League title in five years in May before joining Italian champions Juventus in July.
The 33-year-old won the player of the year crown in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Joining Ronaldo on the shortlist is his former Real team-mate Modric, who enjoyed a superb season for club and country.
As well as his influential displays in Real’s Champions League triumph, the Croatia midfielder was the key man for his country as they reached their first World Cup final, finishing as runners-up to France.
Liverpool and Egypt forward Salah has also impeccable credentials as a potential winner of the award.
Salah enjoyed a record-breaking first season with Liverpool as his goals propelled Jurgen Klopp’s to the Champions League final and set a host of individual club landmarks.