Magical Lionel Messi leaves Cristiano Ronaldo trailing

Barcelona star sweeps to ‘Best Player’ award with 49 of the 54 votes cast

On the pitch, his side's most important victories last season were sometimes delivered by the slimmest of margins but Lionel Messi's victory over rival Ronaldo in this year's Uefa Best Player in Europe category was a much closer to a landslide with the Barcelona star taking 49 of the 54 available votes.

In the end, the Real Madrid star, last year's winner, actually came third, with just two votes, one less that Luis Suarez, Messi's team-mate in the all -conquering Barca attack.

Between the pair and Neymar, they scored 27 goals in 13 Champions League games as Luis Enrique's side swept to the club's fifth European title but Messi was the stand-out star of the show both in La Liga and on the bigger stage with the 28 year-old recapturing the form that has marked him out as the most thrilling player of his generation.

Great start

“Of course I’m happy to get this award,” he said in



moments after the Champions League draw had finished and the multitude of club officials had left the main hall at the Grimaldi Forum.

“But I have to say thank you to my team-mates; it was a great end to the season and now, with this award, a great start to the new one I hope we can achieve similar things.

“Barcelona have been playing with the same philosophy and style over the years and it was good for us to have reached our objectives. Now, the challenge is to try to do it again this season . . .”

Messi becomes the first player to win the Best Player in Europe for a second time since it was reformulated by Uefa five years ago. His team -mate Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery have been the others to be honoured but when at his very best the Argentine simply seems to eclipse all rivals, even Ronaldo whose actual statistics for last year are remarkably similar to the Barcelona player's.

Asked about the season ahead, Messi said only that he and his team-mates will do their best to repeat last year’s success although no side so far has managed to defend the Champions League title.

“We enter a new season the same as always,” he said, “where we will fight all the competitions, we will try and we know it will be difficult to repeat last year’s success but we will try hard.

Perform well

“For me, I try to improve and develop myself every year. This year and last year I tried to improve my game and have more variance to it. I hope to feel good this season and perform well again.”

Celia Sasic, meanwhile, won the women's award after a season in which the Frankfurt striker was the Bundesliga's top scorer and helped her club to victory with a goal in the Champions League final against PSG.

On the international front she won the Golden Boot at the World Cup with six goals and decided to go out on a high, confirming her retirement after the tournament.

“It’s an exciting moment,” she said of winning the award, “one you can never dream about. It will be the last one like it too but football has always been my passion, it still is and I take away really great memories from my career.”

Sasic got 11 votes in the women's award ballot, seven more than Lyon's French international midfielder, Amandine Henry with the striker's club and international team mate, Dzsenifer Marozsan one further behind on three.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times