Barcelona star Lionel Messi was named FIFA World Player of the Year, adding one more title to his abundant collection of soccer’s great honours.
Messi lifted the prestigious award at FIFA’s gala ceremony in Zurich, outdistancing the last two winners, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, along with his Barcelona teammates Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in voting among national team captains and coaches, Xinhua reported.
It caps a perfect year for the winger, who won an unprecedented treble of titles with Barcelona, the Spanish league and cup, and the Champions League, and received the Ballon D’Or as the best player in Europe.
He also sealed Barcelona’s first Club World Cup with an extra-time goal to beat Estudiantes 2-1.
The only trophy void for the 22-year-old Argentine now is a World Cup title.
Messi, who was runner-up the last two years, received 1,047 points in voting. Ronaldo was second with 352 points, followed by Xavi with 196 points.
Messi scored 38 goals in 51 matches in all competitions during 2008-2009 season, and has continued with 15 goals in 22 games this campaign, as Barcelona have surged to the top of La Liga and back to the Champions League knockout phase.
Maradona has labelled Messi his “successor” on the field, and Messi has already surpassed the former great in terms of successes at club level.
But his only international triumph was an Olympic gold medal in 2006, and he will have to play much better for his country to lead Argentina to a third World Cup and his first since Maradona inspired victory in 1986.
The women’s award went to Brazil’s Marta for the fourth year in a row. The 23-year-old playmaker beat teammate Cristiane, Kelly Smith of England, and Germans Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings.
The late England player and manager Bobby Robson received FIFA’s fair play award, while the presidential award for contributions to football and society went to Jordan’s Queen Rania.
FIFA announced its first World XI men’s team, which included six players from the Spanish La Liga and five from the English Premier League.
Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas was chosen as goalkeeper, with Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra joining Chelsea’s John Terry and Barcelona’s Dani Alves in defence. Xavi, Iniesta and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard were picked as midfielders, with Messi, Ronaldo and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres in attack.
Ronaldo was honoured at the gala for scoring the best goal of 2009, a 40-metre shot against Porto in last season’s Champions League.