Top of the World


ZURICH, December 22 – Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi was crowned World Player of the Year by world football's ruling body FIFA on Monday.Messi, whose goals this year helped Barcelona win the Champions League final and World Club Cup final, thus succeeds Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s top player, as voted by national team captains and coaches.

Messi has played a huge role in the recent success of Spanish giants Barcelona, who have won a total of six trophies in the past season including the Champions League title and the World Club Cup trophy last week.

The Argentine forward’s talents were given the ultimate thumbs-up earlier this month when he was voted the winner of the Ballon d’Or for the European Footballer of the Year.

On Monday Messi, 22, had been in contention with Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi, both from Spain, Brazilian striker Kaka of Real Madrid, the winner in 2007, and last year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo also won both trophies last season.

While Ronaldo won the Ferenc Puskas award for goal of the season while playing with former club Manchester United, one of Messi’s goals was among the highlights.

Despite his diminutive stature Messi, who stands 1.69 metres or five feet seven inches tall, rose above United’s defence in the Champions League final in Rome to head the second of Barcelona’s goals in their 2-0 victory.

The Argentine is also known for his superb dribbling and fast, mazy runs that leave opposition defences in tatters, and on Monday he was just as quick to share out the plaudits.

"I want to thank my teammates, notably those who are present here tonight, without whom none of my achievements would have been possible," said Messi.

"2009 has been a wonderful year for Barcelona and also for me."

Messi’s goal against United in last season’s final was his ninth of the 2009 Champions League campaign and left him as the competition’s top scorer.

Last week Messi also proved decisive in the World Club Cup final. He scored Barcelona’s second goal in the 2-1 victory over South American champions Estudiantes of Argentina.

In 2009 Barcelona also won the league title, the King’s (Spanish) Cup, the Spanish Super Cup and the European Super Cup.