PARIS, December 21 – Barcelona's Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is the hot favourite to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award, which will be announced by world football's governing body in Zurich on Monday.
The dazzling winger has already been honoured with the prestigious Ballon d’Or, the European Player of the Year trophy, and he picked up his sixth prize of an unforgettable year with Barcelona after scoring the winning goal in their 2-1 win over Estudiantes in the final of the World Club Cup on Saturday.
"We’ve just ended a historic year, a perfect year in which we’ve won every competition we’ve played in," said the 22-year-old, who vanquished his Argentine compatriots Estudiantes with an innovative chested finish in extra-time of their Abu Dhabi showdown.
"We just needed to take this last step and everything has worked out how we wanted. It’s amazing. It’s difficult to put into words."
Barcelona’s incredible 2009, in which they additionally won the league, the Spanish Cup, the Champions League, the European Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup, has also led to nominations for midfield pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
"If you’re talking about all the trophies, then there’s no other side that has achieved what we have this year," Messi added in an interview with the FIFA website.
"We are happy at having made history but make no mistake, we’ll be out to win everything again next year."
Real Madrid pair Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning award-holder and world’s most expensive player, complete the five-man list of nominees but Messi is widely expected to pip them both, having already beaten Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or earlier in the month.
The only black mark on Messi’s year was the struggle endured by Argentina in World Cup qualifying, but they eventually squeezed through and next summer’s South African showpiece will give him the opportunity to join the pantheon of the truly great alongside his national boss Diego Maradona.
Aside from the men’s prize, FIFA will select the Women’s World Player of the Year from a shortlist featuring Germans Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings, England’s Kelly Smith and Brazilian pair Cristiane and favourite Marta.
FIFA will also unveil its inaugural Team of the Year, while the Ferenc Puskas prize — named in honour of the 1950s Hungarian great – will be presented to the scorer of the year’s best goal.