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Messi makes case for best ever
by Paul Kennedy, January 7th, 2013 6:12PM

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TAGS:  argentina, fifa, spain

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[FIFA GALA AWARDS] At the age of 25, Lionel Messi can already lay claim to consideration as one of the greatest players in the history of soccer. He won an unprecedented fourth straight FIFA Ballon d'Or following a year during which he scored a world record 91 goals for Barcelona and Argentina.

Three players have won the Ballon d'Or three times: Michel Platini three years in a row, Johan Cruyff three times in four years and Marco van Basten won the European award three times in five years.

Consideration for the France Football award was limited to Europeans until 1995 when it was opened up to any player playing on a European club. The award was expanded in 2007 to include all players from around the world regardless of club. In 2010, France merged its award with FIFA whose player of the year honor was first awarded in 1991.

Journalists voted for the France Football award, while national team coaches and captains voted for the FIFA award. Voting is now conducted in the three categories for the FIFA Ballon d'Or.

The selection as the 2012 Ballon d'Or winner over Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca teammate Andres Iniesta capped a huge night for Spanish soccer at the annual FIFA awards gala held Monday in Zurich, Switzerland.

Spain national team coach Vicente Del Bosque was named the World Coach of the Year for Men's Soccer, while La Liga players -- five each from Barcelona and Real Madrid and one from Atletico -- took all 11 spots on the FIFA/FIFPro World XI of the Year.

Ballon d'Or:
1. Lionel Messi 41.6%
2. Cristiano Ronaldo 23.7%
3. Andres Iniesta 10.9%

U.S. votes:
Paul Kennedy (Soccer America): 1. Lionel Messi, 2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 3. Radamel Falcao.
Jurgen Klinsmann (U.S. national team coach): 1. Lionel Messi, 2. Andrea Pirlo, 3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Carlos Bocanegra (U.S. national team captain): 1. Lionel Messi, 2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 3. Radamel Falcao.

(Click here for complete voting.)

World Coach of the Year for Women's Soccer:
1. Vicente Del Bosque 34.51%
2. Jose Mourinho 20.49%
3. Pep Guardiola 12.91%

U.S. votes:
Paul Kennedy (Soccer America): 1. Vicente Del Bosque, 2. Roberto Di Matteo, 3. Cesare Prandelli
Jurgen Klinsmann (U.S. national team coach): 1. Vicente Del Bosque, 2.Cesare Prandelli, 3. Pep Guardiola
Carlos Bocanegra (U.S. national team captain): 1. Vicente Del Bosque, 2. Cesare Prandelli 3. Joachim Loew

(Click here for complete voting.)

FIFA World XI of the Year
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Dani Alves (Barcelona)
Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
Xavi (Barcelona)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)



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