Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was awarded his 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or at a ceremony held in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday.
Messi crushed the world record last year, scoring 91 goals for his country and his club in a single year. Those goals broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972, making the Argentine the clear favorite to win the award after such a successful season. Of those 91, Messi scored 79 for Barca and another 12 for Argentina in a total of 69 games in 2012.
But despite all of his goals, Barcelona did not have a very successful season. They conceded La Liga to arch-rivals Real Madrid by a margin of 9 points, and lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Messi was part of the 3-man shortlist selected to be voted on for the prize. The other two players contending for the Ballon d’Or were his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. National coaches and captains as well as selected media cast their votes for who they felt was best suited for the award.
The final results polled:
- Lionel Messi-41.60%
- Cristiano Ronaldo-23.68%
- Andres Iniesta-10.91%
Messi became the first player to win the FIFA Player of the Year Award 4 times in a row. With 3 titles, Messi was previously tied with former France international striker, and now UEFA president, Michel Platini. Now that he has surpassed that benchmark, it can now be confidently said that Messi is the best footballer in the world.
At a news conference following the results, Messi said:
“To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”
“I would like to recognize my other colleagues from Barcelona. Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you.”
“I would also like to recognize all of my friends in the Argentina national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, a slightly downcast Ronaldo congratulated Messi with the award:
“Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a privilege to be here.”
But in case you have forgotten, Ronaldo had also won the Ballon d’Or. The Portuguese was named FIFA Player of the Year once before, seemingly decades ago in 2008, before Messi’s prime. He wore a New York Yankees cap to the pre-gala conference in which he participated.
In the meantime, US international Abby Wambach was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Also, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and US Women’s coach Pia Sundhage were both given the coach accolades after leading their teams to a Euro Cup and Olympic victory, respectively.
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola finished behind del Bousque. At the news conference, Guardiola confirmed that he plans to resume coaching at the start of next season.
Uzbekistan won the fair play award for their outstanding disciplinary record, while Franz Beckenbauer won the FIFA presidential award.
The World XI All-Star team, which was chosen by FIFPro group of players’ unions, was made up completely of players contesting in Spain’s La Liga. All 3 contestants for the Ballon d’Or were on that list, while the other 8 consisted of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.
The goalkeeper was none other than Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, accompanied by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo as well as Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique who all made up the defense. Iniesta stood alongside teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real’s Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Messi led the attack, with Ronaldo and Atletico’s Radamel Falcao at his sides.
The team saw little change from the one created in 2011, with the only changes being Marcelo and Falcao for Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney.