ZURICH, Switzerland January 7 – Record-breaking Lionel Messi is poised to become the first player to win four successive Ballon d’Or awards on Monday, sealing his status as the greatest player of his generation.
The 25-year-old is the overwhelming favourite to see off the challenge of Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and great Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo for the prize.
It will crown another landmark year for the Argentine who is the top scorer in La Liga this season with 25 goals having also broken Gerd Mueller’s 40-year record for the most goals in a calendar year.
He finished 2012 with an astonishing 91 goals in all competitions.
But Messi has insisted that his scoring records will mean nothing if Barcelona do not go on to take La Liga title off Real or fail to win the Champions League.
“It’s nice to beat records but the win for the team is what is important. My goals are to win titles with the team, the Spanish league, Spanish Cup or Champions League is more important than any personal records.”
He remains just as modest when it comes to Monday’s awards in Zurich.
“If Iniesta wins, it will be well-deserved for all that he has done, for the way he plays. Again, it will also be a prize for the dressing room.”
Messi and former French star, UEFA president Michel Platini, are the only players to win three straight Ballon d’Or awards while Dutch stars Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten have also won three accolades.
Barca coach Tito Vilanova has no doubt that Messi will be a deserving winner.
“Leo’s great quality is that he plays as if he’s still a child,” said Vilanova.
“He was always good as a youngster and you didn’t need to be a coach to say that. It was a joy to see him play as a 15-year-old and that continues now.”
Portugal captain Ronaldo admits he would love to win but it would not be the end of the world if the prize went elsewhere.
“If I win, perfect. If I don’t, never mind, life goes on. But obviously I’d love to win. I’m not going to lie or be hypocritical,” said the 27-year-old Real Madrid forward.
“Fair or unfair, the decision will be what it will be… I’ll maybe be very happy or maybe very sad. But that’s life. I can’t live according to an individual prize,” the 2008 Ballon d’Or winner added.
Other awards on Monday will see Vicente Del Bosque — who led Spain to Euro 2012 glory and made them the first side to win three back-to-back tournaments — in line for the best coach award.
He will be up against Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
For women’s player of the year, five-time Brazilian champion Marta goes up against US pair Aby Wambach and Alex Morgan.