WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2012 - Argentina’s Lionel Messi is surely one of the greatest players in the history of soccer.
Messi won the FIFA Ballon d’Or award given to the best player in the world on Monday at a gala event in Zurich, Switzerland. It’s the third consecutive time the Barcelona star has won the award, which is an amalgamation of the old FIFA World Player of the Year award and the France Football Ballon d’Or since 2010.
Messi, who led Barcelona to win the Champions League title and four other titles in 2011, won the prize polling 47.8 percent of the votes, ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (21.6 percent) and Barcelona’s Xavi (9.23 percent).
Former Washington Freedom star Homare Sawa won the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award. Sawa, who led Japan to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 in Germany, collected 28.5 percent of the votes, ahead of Brazil’s Marta (17.2 percent) and American Abby Wambach (13.2 percent).
Pep Guardiola was named FIFA World Coach of the Year with 41.9 percent of the vote, beating out Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson (15.6 percent) and Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese coach of Real Madrid (12.4 percent).
Guardiola guided Barcelona to win the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, the La Liga title, Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
Japan’s women’s national team coach Norio Sasaki won the award for World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football.
FIFPro, the world players’ union, invited 50,000 professional players from all over the world to select their best team of 2011 which included: Iker Casillas (Spain) in goal; Dani Alves (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain), Sergio Ramos (Spain) and Nemanja Vidic (Serbia) in defense; Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain) and Xavi (Spain) in midfield; and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Wayne Rooney (England) up front.
The FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal” of the year went to Brazil’s Neymar for his goal in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A match between Santos FC and Flamengo in São Paulo on 27 July 2011.
The FIFA Fair Play Award was given to the Japan women’s team.
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