Messi strikes gold for a record fourth time
Another record falls. Lionel Messi finished 2012 on 91 goals in 69 games. He began 2013 by winning the Fifa Ballon d’Or (with 41.6 per cent of the votes), Cristiano Ronaldo (23.7 per cent) came second and Andres Iniesta (10.9 per cent) third.
It is the fourth time Messi has won it and no one else has won it so often. Because the award is a merger of the old European Footballer of the Year and the Fifa World Player of the Year which was inaugurated only in 1991, Diego Maradona never won it and nor did Pele but it is doubtful if they would have matched Messi’s achievement.
Marco van Basten won the European award three times in five years, Johan Cruyff three in four and Platini three years in a row. Alfredo Di Stefano won it twice. Messi has superseded all of them.
Months of speculation slowly gave way to a growing realisation, especially as the European Championship was left behind and Messi accelerated towards the end of the year: it was going to be him again. He scored twice in each of eight successive games and they were almost all goals of barely plausible brilliance.
Last night, finally it was confirmed. “The good thing about the Ballon d’Or is that it’s being handed out tomorrow,” the Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, had said the night before.
Everyone could get on with their lives, talk about something else for a change. Hardly: it will not be long before talk turns to next year’s award – except that right now it is hard to imagine anyone else walking away a winner from Zurich in 12 months’ time. “To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable,” Messi said. “The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”
Return to coaching
Messi’s former coach Pep Guardiola says that he will return to coaching next season but insists he has not yet decided where. The former Barcelona coach has become the most sought-after manager in Europe, attracting interest from Chelsea and Manchester City among a number of other clubs, but is currently on a sabbatical in New York.
Speaking at the awards in Zurich he said: “Next year I will go back into coaching. I do not know where but I will go back. “It is not that I am missing anything at the moment but I am 41 years old, still young.”