Messi wins 3rd straight World Player of Year award

ZURICH - Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, still only 24, won the World Player of the Year award for the third time in a row on Monday.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo was second in the vote for the 2011 FIFA Ballon D'Or and Messi's Barcelona teammate Xavi third.

Messi, who inspired his Spanish team to win the Champions League, La Liga and Club World Cup, was also first last year when the award was created by joining together the separate annual prizes handed out by FIFA and France Football magazine.

"To win it three times running is a very big honour," Messi, who also won both old awards in 2009, told the audience after being presented with the trophy by former Brazil striker Ronaldo a three-times World Player of the Year.

"I want to share it with the people who helped me, my teammates and coach. This is very special, I want to divide it with me teammate Xavi."

No player has previously won the FIFA award three times in a row, although Michel Platini claimed the France Football prize three years in succession in the 1980s.

Barcelona's Pep Guardiola won the coach's award ahead of Manchester United's Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid. Ferguson took the FIFA presidential award for outstanding service to the sport.

The ceremony, co-presented by former Netherlands striker Ruud Gullit, also saw Japan's Homare Sawa voted women's player of the year, ending a run of five successive wins for Brazil's Martha.

Brazil and Santos forward Neymar won the award for the goal of the year, a stunning effort in a Brazilian championship match against Flamengo.

Messi swept home with 47.88 percent to votes in the survey among national team coaches, captains and selected media. Ronaldo took 21.6 percent and Xavi 9.23 percent.

"I would like to share this award with Mourinho and Ferguson and all the coaches around the world who love this game," Guardiola said.

"I also thank the thousands of people through more the 100 years who have worked in football in Barcelona and have developed one of the best clubs in the world."

Blatter heaped praise on Ferguson before handing him his prize.

"In a world in which coaches are expected to produce instant results or be changed, his longevity is a shining example of what can be achieved through stability, continuity, investment in development and trust and confidence in the personality himself," said the Swiss, in his fourth mandate as FIFA president.

"Twenty-five years managing the same club, can you imagine that today?"

Factbox on Lionel Messi

Messi wins 3rd straight World Player of Year award

Personal Information

Born June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Sante Fe, Argentina.

The 24-year-old is blessed with the same masterly ball control and burst of pace as the great Diego Maradona and his goal against Getafe in a King's Cup match in 2007 was almost a replica of the former Argentina captain's spectacular solo effort against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Early career

* Joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and shone in the youth ranks before then-coach Frank Rijkaard gave him his senior debut at the age of 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003.

* Led Argentina to glory at the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands, scoring two penalties in a 2-1 final victory over Nigeria. Like Maradona, ended the tournament with the best player and top scorer trophies.

* Became a Spanish citizen in 2005.

Hitting heights

* Made his debut for Argentina in a friendly against Hungary in August 2005, the same opponents Maradona made his debut against as a 16-year-old. Messi was sent off less than a minute after going on as a substitute for elbowing a defender who had pulled his shirt.

* A bureaucratic argument over whether he could be classed as a European Union player meant he did not represent Barcelona in a competitive game until 2005. He went on to score six goals in 17 appearances as the club won La Liga for the second year in a row.

* Faced a race against time to make the 2006 World Cup and played only a bit-part role in the tournament. Coach Jose Pekerman was heavily criticised for leaving him on the bench as Argentina were knocked out in the quarter-finals by hosts Germany after a penalty shootout.

* Led Argentina to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year vote behind Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo who was then with Manchester United but is now at Real Madrid.

* In the 2009-10 season, Messi played an influential role in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side that won six trophies including the Champions League, La Liga and the World Club Cup.

* Part of the Argentina team coached by Diego Maradona which was dumped out of the 2010 World Cup, losing 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals. Messi failed to score and struggled to find his best form at the tournament in South Africa.

* Inspired Barcelona to an emphatic 3-1 win against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final, scoring one goal and creating another in a match-winning display.

* Scored 53 goals in the 2010-11 season, including 12 in the Champions League in which he finished top scorer for the third successive season.

* Helped Barca to a third consecutive La Liga title in 2010-11.

* Member of Argentina team who were beaten by old rivals Uruguay in the quarter-finals of the Copa America in July 2011 and he failed to score any goals at the tournament.

* Passed the milestone of 200 goals for Barca in November 2011 and is fast closing in on the Catalan club's record marksman Cesar Rodriguez, who scored 235.