Messi may have further reason to celebrate later this year / MIGUEL RUIZ

It has been a spectacular 2015 for Leo Messi, and as well as winning three major titles with the FC Barcelona first team, he’s also being recognised individually in all kinds of ways around the world. The latest has been his inclusion among the 12 candidates for the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award. The winner will be decided by an online vote, the results of which will be announced on December 14.

Six men, four women, one team and a horse

The Barça star is up against a curious set of opponents, one of which is not even human! There are five other men in the running, namely Usain Bolt (athletics), Novak Djokovic (tennis), Jordan Spieth (golf), Thomas Davis (American football) and Stephen Curry (basketball). But the award can also be won by women, and four have been shortlisted this year: Serena Williams (tennis), Ronda Rousey (martial arts), Simone Biles (gymnastic) and Carli Lloyd (football), and can also be won by teams – with baseball’s Kansas City Royals among the nominees. The final candidate is a horse, American Pharoah, winner of the Triple Crown this year.

The award has usually been won by United States nationals, the last foreign winner being baseball star Sammy Sosa of the Dominican Republic in 1998, the year before football was honoured for the first and only time in the form of the US women’s national team. But with Leo Messi in the running, there could be another foreign winner this year, and another footballer too!

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Best of all time in 2012

Leo Messi has been honoured by the prestigious American paper Sports Illustrated in the past. That was in 2012, when he was named the greatest football player of all time.