The FIFA World Player of the Year award was launched in 1991 by then-FIFA President Joao Havelange and in 2001, the event was expanded to include an award for best woman player.
In the intervening five years, two outstanding players have shared the coveted title between them: Mia Hamm of the United States, and Germany's Birgit Prinz.
The three players short-listed for the inaugural women's award in 2001 were Mia Hamm, her US compatriot Tiffeny Milbrett and China's Sun Wen. When the judges - 72 national coaches - cast their votes at Zurich's TV Production Centre, the result proved to be a runaway victory for the charismatic Hamm.
The following year, in Madrid, Hamm was once again up again Sun Wen, along with a shooting star on the women's scene, Birgit Prinz. For the young German striker, this was a first appearance at the event she was destined to dominate in the years to come. On this occasion, however, Hamm was not to be denied, retaining her title with ease ahead of Prinz, with Sun Wen finishing a distant third.
However, by 2003, Birgit Prinz's time had come. She starred as Germany swept all before them on their way to victory at the FIFA Women's World Cup™ USA 2003, beating Sweden after extra time in a thrilling final. Her performances there made her front-runner for FIFA World Player of the Year, and she duly saw off the inevitable challenge from Mia Hamm, with Sweden's Hanna Ljungberg third.
Prinz and Hamm were once again among the three players short-listed in 2004, alongside Brazil's Marta, who had turned in some impressive performances at the Olympic tournament in Athens. The 2004 World Player Gala in the Zurich Opera House put the icing on the cake of FIFA's centenary celebrations, and Birgit Prinz retained her title convincingly, earning 386 points - 100 more than Hamm, who just edged out Marta for second place.
The 2005 event looked like being a close contest between Prinz and Marta, with Shannon Boxx of the US making up the numbers. In the end, Birgit Prinz comfortably secured her third successive title ahead of the Brazilian, with Boxx well back in third.
This year, Prinz has not made the 20-strong long-list, and with Mia Hamm having retired in 2004, a new name is guaranteed to win the FIFA World Player award this time around. All will be revealed in Zurich on 18 December.
- 2005 Birgit Prinz (GER)
- 2004 Birgit Prinz (GER)
- 2003 Birgit Prinz (GER)
- 2002 Mia Hamm (USA)
- 2001 Mia Hamm (USA)