Was there ever any doubt that Lionel Messi would win FIFA's world player of the year award?
The Argentine ace who in 2009 led FC Barcelona to its most successful season ever in the 110-year history of the fabled Catalan club was feted by soccer's world governing body Monday at a gala in Zurich where he was presented the award.
"It is beautiful to achieve a year that cannot possibly be improved," Messi said through a translator. He went on to call the award "the icing on the cake."
Messi, 22, beat fellow Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, as well as Real Madrid stars Kaka (the 2007 honouree) and Cristiano Ronaldo (last year's winner) in a landslide to become the first player from Argentina to win the honour since it was first handed out in 1991.
- 1991 — Lothar Matthaus (Germany)
- 1992 — Marco van Basten (Netherlands)
- 1993 — Roberto Baggio (Italy)
- 1994 — Romario (Brazil)
- 1995 — George Weah (Liberia)
- 1996 — Ronaldo (Brazil)
- 1997 — Ronaldo (Brazil)
- 1998 — Zindedine Zidane (France)
- 1999 — Rivaldo (Brazil)
- 2000 — Zinedine Zidane (France)
- 2001 — Luis Figo (Portugal)
- 2002 — Ronaldo (Brazil)
- 2003 — Zinedine Zidane (France)
- 2004 — Ronaldinho (Brazil)
- 2005 — Ronaldinho (Brazil)
- 2006 — Fabio Cannavro (Italy)
- 2007 — Kaka (Brazil)
- 2008 — Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
- 2009 — Lionel Messi (Argentina)
The FIFA prize was voted on by 147 coaches and captains of national soccer teams from around the world. Messi finished first in balloting, with 1,073 points, ahead of Ronaldo (352 points), Hernandez (196), Kaka (190) and Iniesta (134).
After finishing runner-up in the award voting for the past two years, Messi was finally crowned as the top player on the planet by FIFA, and for good reason.
Messi had a sensational 2008-09 campaign, as FC Barcelona romped to a historic treble, winning the Spanish league title, Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League in easy fashion.
The Argentine winger was the heartbeat of a Barcelona side that also won three other major trophies in 2009: the Supercopa de Espana (Spanish Super Cup), the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup.
Not surprisingly, Messi has already claimed a host of individual honours this year, including the prestigious Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) from France Football magazine.
The slew of awards came on the heels of an incredible 2008-09 season that saw Messi score 38 goals in 51 games in all competitions. He also netted the game-winner during extra time in Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Estudiantes de La Plata in the FIFA Club World Cup final this past Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
Indeed, Messi is a special talent, often drawing comparisons to Diego Maradona. The young Argentine star has it all: speed, vision, a blistering shot, sublime passing skills, deft dribbling and the ability to make the impossible look routine.
Messi recently signed a contract extension that ties him to Barcelona through 2016 and he will lead Argentina at next year's World Cup in South Africa.
Also on Monday in Zurich, Marta was named women's world player of the year for a record fourth consecutive time after enjoying a successful season with the Los Angeles Sol in the newly formed Women's Professional Soccer league in the United States.
"I'm really surprised," Marta said.
Ronaldo was the winner of the Puskas Award for the 'most beautiful goal' of the year — for his goal against FC Porto in last season's Champions League — as voted for on FIFA.com by over 120,000 fans.
The FIFA Fair Play Award for 2009 was posthumously given to former Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson, who passed away on July 31 following a long battle against cancer. He was 76.
FIFA also announced its first World XI men's team:
- Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid).
- Defenders: Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea) and Dani Alves (Barcelona).
- Midfielders: Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).
- Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Fernando Torres (Liverpool).