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Messi wins 3rd straight FIFA player of year award
Among the women, Homare Sawa of Japan ended Brazilian forward Marta’s five-year reign as the top player. American Abby Wambach was a finalist. Sawa led Japan to win the 2011 Women’s World Cup and adds the FIFA prize to those as the tournament’s best player and top scorer.
Messi received 48 percent of the points in votes cast by national team coaches and captains plus selected reporters. Cristiano Ronaldo finished second with 22 percent and Xavi had 9 percent to finish third for the third straight year.
A major international tournament victory is all that now eludes Messi. Guardiola and Ferguson agreed at an earlier news conference that Messi should be considered in the same elite category Pele, Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano.
“Now he can sit beside them,” Guardiola said.
Messi joined Michel Platini in winning the Ballon d’Or for three consecutive years, though the France great won from 1983-85 when only European players were eligible. Platini called Messi “a pearl,” but said he must win soccer’s biggest prize to rival Pele or Maradona.
Messi was outscored by Ronaldo in the Spanish league last season _ 40 to 31 _ but elevated his game in the biggest matches. Xavi described his teammate as “one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.”
“He’s still young. I think he’s probably going to break all the records that exist in the sport,” Xavi said.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann voted Messi first, followed by Ronaldo and Diego Forlan. American captain Carlos Boacanegra had Messi first, followed by Xavi and Ronaldo. Paul Kennedy of Soccer America, the U.S. media voter, had Messi first followed by Ronaldo and Xavi.
Messi missed a second trophy for the year’s most beautiful goal. Fans voted online from a list of 10 and chose the goal by Brazil forward Neymar in his club Santos’s 5-4 loss against Flamengo last July.
Ferguson received the FIFA presidential award from Sepp Blatter in recognition of his 25 years as manager at Old Trafford. The 70-year-old Scot has won 12 English League and two Champions League trophies.
“It is an honor for it to be given me in the twilight of my life,” he said.
The Japan Football Association received FIFA’s Fair Play award for its response to the earthquake and tsunami last March.
All three Ballon d’Or nominees were part of the 2011 all-star lineup chosen by the FIFPro group of players’ unions comprising 50,000 members worldwide. They selected a team entirely of Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester United players:
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