Lionel Messi has been named the world’s best player for 2011 for the third consecutive time. The mercurial Argentine beat off competition from fellow La Liga colleagues Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez to the Fifa Ballon d’Or award.
The Rosario-born hitman received 47.88 per cent of the overall vote, Ronaldo was second with 21.6% and Messi’s teammate Xavi third with 9.23%.
The 24-year-old has become only the fourth player in history to win a hat-trick of the award joining Dutch duo Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten and legendary French attacking midfielder Michel Platini, the only other player to have managed three straight world player of the year wins.
Meanwhile Japanese captain for women’s football Homare Sawa was named Women’s World Player of the Year, ending Marta’s five-year reign. Ms Sawa, 33, captained the Japanese women's football team in their way to winning the women’s World Cup in July last year, beating the USA in the finals. Marta finished second ahead of Abby Wambach from the USA.
Messi’s coach at Barcelona Pep Guardiola was named Men’s Coach of the year ahead of Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Fergusson, who received FIFA’s presidential award for his contribution to football. Japan’s Norio Sasaki won the coach of the year award for women’s football.
The annual gala event in Zurich also saw Neymar being awarded the Puskas Award for goal of the year, thanks to his jaw dropping solo goal against Flamengo. Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal against Manchester City and Messi’s goal against Arsenal in the second round Champions League encounter also got the nod.
All the three Ballon d’Or finalists made it to the FIFA/FIFPro WORLD XI which was entirely made of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United players.
Goalkeeper (Iker Casillas); defence (Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic); midfielders (Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso); forwards (Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney)
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