Lionel Messi January 2013

Lionel Messi of Argentina was named the winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award as the world’s best soccer player on Jan. 7. It’s the fourth consecutive time he’s won the honor and the fourth time overall, which are both records.

The 25-year-old Messi was favored to take the trophy home after scoring a remarkable record-setting 91 goals in 69 games for his club team Barcelona and his country during the calendar year of 2012. He scored 12 goals for Argentina during the year and added 79 for Barcelona.

Also up for the award was Portuguese great Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Spain's Andres Iniesta, who is a teammate of Messi at Barcelona. Messi becomes the 10th Barcelona player to win the prize in the past 22 years.

There have been three-time winners of the award before, such as Ronaldo of Brazil, and France’s Zinedine Zidane, but Messi is now in a league of his own with four titles to his name.

The voting was done by captains and managers of national soccer teams as well as a select group of journalists with Messi receiving the support of 41.6-percent of the voters. The original list of players considered for the award consisted of 23 names and it was then narrowed down to the three finalists. Ronaldo received 23.7-percent of the votes while Iniesta garnered 10.9-per cent.

The men's manager of the year honors went to Vicente del Bosque of Spain for guiding his nation to the European Championship (Euro 2012) title. It was the third straight major championship for the Spanish as they also won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship in 2008.

On the women’s side of things, 32-year-old American Abby Wambach was named the female player of the year after scoring five goals for her country at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England and former American manager Pia Sundhage was named as the best women’s manager. Sundhage now coaches the Swedish women’s national team.

American Alex Morgan and Marta of Brazil were also finalists for the women’s player trophy. Wambach received 20.7-percent of the votes while Marta had 13.5 and Morgan earned 10.9-percent. The other finalists for women’s coach of the year were Norio Sasaki of Japan and France’s Bruno Bini.

The best goal of the year was awarded to Slovakian Miroslav Stoch, who plays for Turkish club Fenerbahce. He was awarded the Puskas trophy for his long-range volley in a Turkish league game in March against Genclerbirligi.

The team of the year consisted of 11 Spanish-based players and was voted on by their peers from around the word. Iker Casillas of Real Madrid was chosen as the top goalkeeper with Gerard Pique and Dani Alves of Barcelona being named as defenders along with Marcelo and Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid. The midfield was made up of Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona as well as Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid. Messi and Ronaldo were the two of the forwards with the other being Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao.


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