Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi won FIFA’s Ballon d’Or award on Monday as the world’s best player of 2010.
Messi won the trophy for a second straight year, finishing ahead of Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
“It’s a very special day for me,” Messi said through a translator on receiving the award at a gala ceremony in FIFA’s home city.
The 23-year-old Messi helped an exciting Barcelona team retain its Spanish league title and lead the standings again this season.
Messi’s trademark tricky play was often mesmerizing and he scored 58 goals for the Catalan club in 2010. However, he had a disappointing World Cup in South Africa, failing to score. Iniesta and Xavi, by comparison, starred for eventual winner Spain.
“I didn’t expect to win it today,” Messi said. “Already it’s a source of happiness to be here with my friends and even more to win it.”
Messi obtained 22.65 percent of the votes cast by coaches and captains of national teams plus invited journalists. The original shortlist featured 23 players.
Andres Iniesta finished second with 17.36 percent and Xavi received 16.48 percent to finish third for the second straight year.
All three candidates learned their craft at Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy.
Barcelona has now provided eight winners in the 20-year history of the FIFA honour. Messi follows former Brazilian internationals Romario (1994), Ronaldo (1996 and ‘97), Rivaldo (1999) and Ronaldinho (2004 and ‘05).
The award was renamed this year after FIFA merged its world player award with the Ballon d’Or trophy, which had been presented to the best player in Europe by France Football magazine since 1956.
Earlier, Jose Mourinho won the men’s coach award for leading Inter Milan to a treble including the Champions League.
Mourinho beat World Cup-winning Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and Pep Guardiola of Barcelona to the inaugural honour. The Portuguese coach guided Inter to the Italian league and cup double before leaving to join Real Madrid.
Brazil forward Marta won the best women’s player award for a fifth straight year, defeating Germany internationals Birgit Prinz and Kosovo-born Lira Bajramaj.
Marta was rewarded for her MVP season with United States women’s professional league champion Gold Pride.
Silvia Neid won the inaugural women’s coaching award for her work with the Germany national team, which defends its World Cup title at home in July. Also shortlisted were Maren Meinert, whose Germany Under-20 team was world champion in July, and Pia Sundhage, the Swedish coach of the United States’ Olympic champions.