Soccer: Lionel Messi and Abby Wambach win best player titles

Argentina’s Lionel Messi won a record-breaking fourth consecutive title as the best player in the world of soccer when he received the the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday. Photo: Lionel Messi Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 7, 2012 —  Argentina’s Lionel Messi won a record-breaking fourth consecutive title as the best player in the world of soccer when he received the the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday.

Messi received 41.60 percent of the points in votes by national team coaches and captains plus selected media, thus beating out Cristiano Ronaldo who got 23.68 percent and Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta, who pulled 10.91 percent of the votes.

The Barcelona striker scored 91 goals in 2012, breaking Gerd Mueller’s mark of 85 for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972. He also finished as the top scorer in the Champions League 2011-2012 season with 14 goals. Some are calling him the greatest player of all time.

American forward Abby Wambach claimed her first FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award, becoming the first American to claim the title since 2002 when Mia Hamm won the honor.

Wambach collected 20.67% of the votes, ahead of Brazil’s Marta and American Alex Morgan, who received 13.50% and 10.87% respectively.

“I’m very, very surprised,” Wambach told the Associated Press. “Not only do I think Marta and Alex could have won, but many other players could have been here as well.”

Vicente del Bosque, the Spanish national team coach, and Sweden’s new women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage (former U.S. team coach) were the winners of the FIFA World Coach of the Year awards for men’s and women’s soccer, respectively. Del Bosque added the European title to his 2010 FIFA World Cup crown after leading Spain to victory at EURO 2012 defeating Italy.

Sundhage was voted top women’s coach after leading the U.S. team to win the gold medal at last summer’s London Olympics.

Del Bosque secured his honor with 34.51% of the votes, ahead of José Mourinho, the Portuguese coach of Real Madrid, with 20.49%, and former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who received 12.91%.

Meanwhile, Sundhage earned 28.59% of the votes, ahead of Norio Sasaki (23.83%), coach of the Japanese national team that collected silver at the Olympics in London, and France team coach Bruno Bini (9.02%).

This was the third presentation of the FIFA Ballon d’Or since the amalgamation of the FIFA World Player of the Year award with the France Football Ballon d’Or in 2010.

FIFPro, the world players’ union, invited 50,000 professional players from all over the world to select their best team of 2012, the FIFA FIFPro World XI. The honors went to the following all-star squad: Iker Casillas (Spain) in goal; Dani Alves (Brazil), Marcelo (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain) and Sergio Ramos (Spain) in defence; Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain) and Xavi Hernández (Spain) in midfield; and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) up front.

John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
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John Haydon

John Haydon has covered soccer for The Washington Times for two decades. He has reported on international soccer events in Germany, South Korea and Spain. John hails from Birmingham, England and has lived in the Washington D.C. region for over twenty years.  

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