Messi wins fourth Ballon d'Or
Soccer:Lionel Messi stands alone after becoming the first ever footballer to be awarded Fifa’s Ballon d’Or four years in a row. Barcelona’s diminutive forward collected the award in Zurich this evening, after scoring a record 91 goals for club and country in 2012.
The Argentine was the overwhelming favourite, having been shortlisted along with clubmate and Spain international Andres Iniesta and Portugal’s Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
His achievement eclipses those of Michel Platini, Johann Cruyff and Marco Van Basten, each of whom won the award three times. Only Platini had won it in consecutive years, between 1983 and 1985.
"To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable," said Messi. "The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words. I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona; Andres (Iniesta) it has been great to train and play alongside you.
"I would also like to recognise all of my friends in the Argentinian 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."
As the 25-year-old Argentina skipper's tricks dazzled the world's defences throughout last year, football records tumbled. In March he became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match as Barcelona crushed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1.
The club's all-time scoring record was then broken with a hat-trick against Granada, and 14 goals in the 2011-12 Champions League broke the mark he had shared with former Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
In May, Messi broke former Bayern Munich striker Mueller's record of 67 goals in a single European season, eventually finishing the campaign with 73. He then went on to surpass the German's yearly total of 85.
Messi’s team-mates and rivals were quick to pay tribute to him.
Barca midfielder Cesc Fabregas wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations Leo, forth time as the best player of #ballondor, you deserve it. And also to andresiniesta8, huge to be there.”
Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero simply Tweeted: “Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi.”
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand Tweeted: “Congrats to Messi! Wow,4 yrs in a row!! Messi has added something else to his list of ‘the only person to....‘ #isMessiTheBestOfAllTime ??”
The award was voted for by national team coaches and captains plus invited journalists.
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane voted for Messi, followed by Ronaldo and Iniesta, while his international manager Giovanni Trapattoni preferred Spain's Xavi in third. The Irish media - represented by freelance Paul Kelly and veteran broadcaster Jimmy Magee - omitted Messi altogether and opted instead for Ronaldo in first, Iniesta and Italy's Andrea Pirlo.
Fenerbahce’s Miroslav Stoch won the Fifa Puskas Award for goal of the year, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque was named World Coach of the Year and United States international Abby Wambach won Women’s World Player of the Year.
The FifPro World XI was named up entirely of players based in Spain with Barcelona’s Dani Alves, Gerard Pique and Xavi, Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso and Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao joining the three Ballon d’Or nominees in the team.
Franz Beckenbauer received the Fifa Presidential Award.