Source:Inside World Football
By Andrew Warshaw, Chief Correspondent
January 8 – While his acceptance speech could not have been much briefer, the standing ovation and warm applause could not have been more prolonged for the so-called little magician who many feel has now overtaken Pele and Diego Maradona as the best footballer the world has ever seen.
Barcelona’s mercurial Argentine Lionel Messi is today rightly celebrating becoming the first player to scoop the Ballon d’Or World Player of Year award on four occasions, this time beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta into second and third place before the great and the good of world football at the annual gala ceremony in Zurich.
Messi won by a landslide polling 41.6% of the votes ahead of Ronaldo with 23.68% and Iniesta 10.91%, both of whom would have been worthy winners in any other era.
Only Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo have had their hands on the Ballon d’Or trophy three times but Messi, still only 25, was handed the prestigious FIFA prize for a fourth time following a remarkable 2012 even by his own high standards during which he surpassed Gerd Muller’s 40-year goalscoring record by amassing 91 in a calendar year over 69 games and 73 goals for the season as a whole.
While 2012 was relatively poor for his club who lost out to Real Madrid in La Liga and had their Champions League campaign ended in the semifinals by Chelsea, Messi’s accomplishments seem endless.
In March he became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match as Barcelona crushed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 and in the same month became Barca’s all-time leading scorer. He also answered those critics who claim he does not perform as well for his country as he does for his club, with 12 goals for Argentina.
“To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words,” Messi told the glittering gala, paying tribute to fellow players and his family.
The award was voted for by national team coaches and captains plus invited journalists. Significantly five-times world champions Brazil, renowned for producing a conveyor belt of world-class footballers, have not had a player in the final three since Kaka won the award in 2007.
Fenerbahce’s Miroslav Stoch won the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque was named World Coach of the Year and United States international Abby Wambach won Women’s World Player of the Year.
Voting for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for 2012 saw the following players make the team: Iker Casillas, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao, Lionel Messi.