Zurich, Jan 12: Lionel Messi won an unprecedented fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or award, given to the footballer of the year, at a gala ceremony here on Monday, ending his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s two-year hold on football’s top individual prize.
Either Messi or Ronaldo, who became a three-time winner last year, have won the past eight awards. The FC Barcelona and Argentine superstar’s reclaimed the prize from three-time winner Portugal’s Ronaldo and he now leads 5-3 in their career duel for the annual FIFA prize.
Messi also shook off the challenge of his Barcelona team-mate Brazilian Neymar who was included on the three-man shortlist for the first time. He was handed over the award by former AC Milan and Real Madrid star Kaka who himself won the award in 2007.
Messi received 41.33 percent of the votes, followed by Ronaldo (27.76 percent) and Neymar (7.86 percent). Messi inspired Barcelona to regain the Champions League title among five major trophies in 2015, scoring 52 goals in 61 games with 26 assists.
Barcelona’s dominance was shaped by the brilliance of their incredible offensive trio of Messi, Neymar and Uruguyan Luis Suarez.”
“It’s a very special moment for me, winning another Ballon d’Or after being in the audience watching Cristiano win the last two years. I want to thank all who voted for me and my teammates who without none of this would be possible. I want to thank football for everything it has brought me – both bad and good, it has helped me grow. Thank you,” Messi said after winning the award.
The Catalan cluba’s coach Luis Enrique was chosen as the men’s “World Coach of the Year” after becoming European champion and winning the Spanish league and cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.
He eclipsed rivals Pep Guardiola of Bayern Munich and Jorge Sampaoli, who led Chile to their first Copa America win earlier in the year.
America’s Jill Ellis won the World Coach of the Year award for women’s football. La Liga dominated the FIFA FIFPro World XI with eight entries, four each from Barcelona and Real Madrid, including the Ballon D’Or nominees Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo.
Brazilian Wendell Lira won the Puskas Award for the best goal. The striker plays for Vila Nova in the third tier in Brazil but at the time of the goal was playing for Goianesia. He earnt his side a 2-1 win with the strike against Atletico-GO.
American Carli Lloyd was named Women’s World Player of the Year. Lloyd, 33, led the United States to victory in the Women’s World Cup in July, memorably scoring a hat-trick in the final.
The FIFA FIFPro World XI: Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer Defenders: Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva, Marcelo. Midfielders: Andres Iniesta, Paul Pogba, Luka Modric. Forwards: Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo. (IANS)