FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has been awarded the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the third year in succession.
The Argentinian international, who was voted the inaugural winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award for the season 2010/11, and who also won the now-merged FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or awards in 2009, said "it's a great pleasure for me to win my third award" after receiving the trophy from former Brazil striker Ronaldo.
"It's an amazing honour," Messi told delegates at the Zurich Kongresshaus, after pipping shortlisted candidates Xavi Hernández and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prize. "I want to thank everyone who voted for me: my friends, my team-mates from Barcelona and the Argentinian national team, my coach, the trainers, the physios; everyone who have been involved with Barça. It's a very special trophy for me.
"I'm going to share this with Xavi," he added. "It's the fourth time we've been here in Zurich; it's a great pleasure to play alongside him. Xavi, you deserve the trophy just as much as me. Without you I wouldn't have won and I want to thank you for being such a good friend."
Messi excelled once again for the Blaugrana last season, scoring 31 goals in as many Liga starts – and 53 overall – to help Barça claim their third league crown in succession, and the fifth of his career. The 24-year-old also produced another stellar UEFA Champions League campaign, top scoring in the competition for a third year running with a record-equalling 12 strikes in 13 appearances, including a goal in the final. He was voted man of the match after inspiring Josep Guardiola's charges to a second European Champions Club's Cup success in three years.
The Barça No10, who was also on target in his side's 2-0 UEFA Super Cup triumph against FC Porto last August, capped a momentous year with two goals in the 4-0 defeat of Santos FC as the European Champions lifted the FIFA World Club Cup in Yokohama, Japan. He has already mustered 17 league goals in 17 league appearances so far this term and co-leads the UEFA Champions League scorers' charts with six goals in the group stage.
His coach, Josep Guardiola, was also honoured at the ceremony, receiving the FIFA Men's Football Coach of the Year award for leading Barcelona to five trophies. "I would like to share this award with José Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson and all the coaches around the world who share this passion," said Guardiola. "It is a privilege to be part of such an incredible club. Finally, I would like to dedicate this award to Tito Vilanova, my assistant, my colleague, my friend who can't be here tonight."
The FIFA Women's World Player of the Year was won by Homare Sawa, who lifted the FIFA Women's World Cup as captain of Japan, coached by Norio Sasaki, who received the FIFA Women's Football World Coach of the Year award. The FIFA Puskás Award for 2011's best goal was taken by Neymar for his wonderful solo effort for Santos against Brazilian top-flight rivals CR Flamengo in July, while the Presidential Award went to Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Messi was one of five Barcelona players named in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
The full lineup is:
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF); Daniel Alves (FC Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF), Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona), Nemanja Vidić (Manchester United FC); Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid CF), Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona); Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United FC).
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