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Lionel Messi Wins FIFA Ballon d’Or For Record Fourth Time

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BARCELONA’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi made history on Monday when he claimed the FIFA Ballon d’Or for 2012 on Monday evening, becoming the first player to be named the world’s best on four consecutive occasions. It was arguably the most anticlimactic award announcement this year, as the “goal machine” with a record 91 goals (for club and country) in one calendar year, has long been favoured for the title.

While Barcelona’s only trophy was the Copa del Rey this season, Messi’s individual brilliance was enough to earn him the award in a stiff competition with club team-mate Andres Iniesta, and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Following the ceremony, 25-year-old Messi said: “It’s really nice to win it again, for a fourth consecutive time. I’m really very happy. The fact is I enjoy the things that happen to me, the awards I’ve won, and I hope I can now go on and win more titles with my club and my national team.”

Messi went on to say he would celebrate the award with his family as usual, and admitted to feeling somewhat taken aback when he was announced the winner: “My mind went blank and I couldn’t think of what to say. All the same, I’d like to dedicate this award to my family.”

His competition for the award came from Cristiano Ronaldo, who led Real Madrid to a La Liga title and took Portugal to the semifinals of the 2012 Euros, where it lost to Spain in penalty kicks. Only Messi had more La Liga goals in the calendar year, and Ronaldo did so despite playing out wide the majority of the time.

Meanwhile, Andres Iniesta, once again, a key cog in Barcelona’s vaunted midfield, continued his reign as arguably the most technically gifted player in the world and was named UEFA Player of the Year and the best player at the 2012 Euros after leading Spain to its second consecutive trophy in the tournament.

But neither Niesta nor Ronaldo could top the accomplishments of Messi, who added 19 assists to his absurd goal-scoring tally. No doubt that he was a deserving winner.

The fact that he is now also delivering for Argentina, who have been dominant in their 2012 World Cup qualifying, and that Barcelona are currently 11 points clear of runners-up Atletico Madrid in La Liga play this season, one could easily conclude that here was the makings of an unbeatable Ballon d’Or resume.

Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d’Or after polling 41.60% of the votes, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo on 23.68% and Andrés Iniesta on 10.91%.

At Monday’s Gala Night at the Zurich Kongresshaus, US player Abby Wambach claimed her first FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award.

Vicente del Bosque, the Spanish national team coach, and Sweden’s new women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage (former USA coach) were the winners of the FIFA World Coach of the Year awards for men’s and women’s football, respectively.

These awards were decided after a poll in which the captains and head coaches of the men’s (for the two men’s awards) and women’s (for the two women’s awards) national teams, as well as international media representatives selected by French football magazine France Football, voted for candidates in each of the four categories. Each group’s votes represented one third of the final result.

FIFPro, the world players’ union, invited 50,000 professional players from all over the world to select their best team of 2012, the FIFA FIFPro World XI. The honours went to the following all-star squad, all playing in the Spanish La Liga: Iker Casillas (Spain) in goal; Dani Alves (Brazil), Marcelo (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain) and Sergio Ramos (Spain) in defence; Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain) and Xavi Hernández (Spain) in midfield; and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) up front.

The FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal” of the year as voted for by more than five million fans was also presented. It went to Slovakian striker Miroslav Stoch, who superbly hooked a shot into the top corner of the net on March 3, 2012 for his club Fenerbahçe in a Turkish Süper Lig match against Gençlerbirliği.

Franz Beckenbauer received the FIFA Presidential Award from President Joseph S. Blatter in recognition of his extraordinary achievements and record of service to the world’s favourite game.

The FIFA Fair Play Award was given to the Uzbekistan Football Federation (UFF) for showing that fair play and competition are not mutually exclusive but complement each another. The UFF finished as winners of the 2012 AFC Fair Play Association of the Year award. The Uzbeks amassed 498.84 points over the year, 16.37 points more than runners-up Iran, as they emerged the victors.

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