For the sixth year in succession, close to 55,000 professional footballers from across the world have are being asked to elect the FIFA/FIFPro World XI, a dream team made up of the 11 best players of 2010. For just over a month now, the votes have been pouring in at a frenetic pace.

As the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, Lionel Messi kicked off the voting process on 1 October by becoming the first footballer to plump for his candidates, quickly followed by his Barcelona team-mates. Given that the Catalan giants feature several FIFA World Cup™ champions such as Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and David Villa, they could well be represented strongly at the 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala on 10 January.

Barça out in force
That was certainly true last year as Dani Alves, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Messi all made it into the distinguished line-up. “It’s a fabulous feeling,” said Xavi at the time. “Any footballer would be honoured to be a part of this team, which includes the best players in the world in each position as chosen by other professionals. For me, it’s a real privilege and a satisfaction to be here.”

“I attach a lot of importance to having been chosen by my peers,” added Messi, shortly after casting his vote. “They know better than anyone what obstacles you need to overcome to reach the top and what sacrifices you have to make to stay there. I think FIFPro are right to give voice to the players in this vote.”

I attach a lot of importance to having been chosen by my peers. They know better than anyone what obstacles you need to overcome to reach the top.

Lionel Messi

A few days after Barça’s finest got to have their say, it was South America’s turn to catch election fever. For some, that meant a first ever opportunity to make their opinions count. Over the last five years, players in the Peruvian second division have been unable to receive their ballots for logistical reasons, but they were thrilled to be given a chance to participate in the event this time around.

At the start of the month, professionals based in Bolivia and Colombia were delighted to add their votes, and that was the case in Bulgaria too, where CSKA Sofia prodigy Pavel Vidanov was one of the first to have his say. More recently, FIFPro representatives travelled to Eindhoven to collect the judgements of professionals at PSV, with Ibrahim Afellay and Ola Toivonen at the front of the queue.

Shortlist of 55 names
International matches have also provided an opportunity to procure ballots and the international teams of Austria, Congo DR, Morocco and Peru have already made their opinions known. The upcoming round of friendlies will no doubt prove extremely useful as well.

The voting process is set to continue for several weeks yet and nobody will be forgotten from Australia to South Africa, whether they ply their trade in Finland, Costa Rica, Russia, Argentina or anywhere else. In each case, players are being asked to compose their FIFA/FIFPro World XI of a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. Before the end of the year, a shortlist of 55 names will be announced with five candidates in each position.

As happened last year for the first time, the final line-up will be revealed at the 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala. “I want to continue working hard to still be at the same level next year,” said Fernando Torres in 2009. El Niño and Co will soon find out if they have indeed done enough to make it into this illustrious team.