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FIFA Player of the Year: The main contenders

  • Story Highlights
  • FIFA will announce its Player of the Year for 2008 in Zurich Monday evening
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has been tipped as a favorite to win the award
  • Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, Iker Casillas and Xavi are top contenders
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- FIFA will announce its Player of the Year for 2008 at a ceremony in Zurich today, and here is a look at the leading contenders for the award.

Favorite: Portugal and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo is in line for the FIFA award.

Favorite: Portugal and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo is in line for the FIFA award.

To see the full list of contenders for the prize and vote for who you think should win, click here.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, Portugal)

Ronaldo has emerged as favorite for the award after he and his Manchester United club enjoyed a superb season. The Portugal international was a central figure in the club's English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and World Club Championships titles. He scored 42 goals in the season. Critics would say he didn't perform well enough on the international stage, as Portugal exited at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2008, and Ronaldo was disappointing. However, he has already picked up the Ballon d'Or award for Europe's player of the year, and for the previous three years the winner of this has gone on to claim the FIFA prize (Ronaldinho, Fabio Cannavaro and Kaka).

Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina)

Messi appears to be Ronaldo's main challenger for the prize -- if public opinion matters, anyway. Messi won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina and made a stunning start to the current season with Barcelona. In the Primera Liga his 10 goals early in the season helped open up a significant gap on the side's main rivals, and he has also scored five goals in the UEFA Champions League season. The 21-year-old is often compared to Argentina's legendary Diego Maradona.

Fernando Torres (Liverpool, Spain)

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The Spaniard enjoyed an incredible first season in the Premier League -- scoring 24 league goals for Liverpool -- a new record for a foreign striker in his debut season. After that success he went on to Austria-Switzerland and played an integral part in Spain's Euro 2008 victory, scoring the winning goal in the final. If top-level international performances are the key to this award then Torres should go close.

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Spain)

Casillas was recently awarded the Best Keeper of the World in 2008 title by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. Casillas played a large part in helping his Real Madrid side to the Spanish La Liga title, put in strong performances in the UEFA Champions League, and was a key part of Spain's Euro 2008-winning team.

Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain)

Also part of the Spanish team which won Euro 2008, Xavi claimed the Player of the Tournament award, which would make him a worthy winner of the FIFA Player of the Year. Aside from his stunning performances at Euro, Xavi scored seven goals for Barcelona last season, and was one of their standout players, while this season he has continued his good form and helped Barcelona to the top of La Liga.

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