Messi wins third straight Ballon d'Or, Sawa unseats Marta to win women's title

MessiBallonDor (Getty Images)

As if Lionel Messi needed any more evidence to prove that he is greatest player in the world.

Messi captured the Ballon d'Or for the third consecutive year, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi to add yet another item to his trophy case. The 24-year-old Barcelona maestro received 47.88 percent of the vote, while Ronaldo received 21.6 percent and Xavi earned 9.23 percent to rank as the three finalists from a shortlist of 23 players.

Messi joins Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Michel Platini as three-time winners of the award. Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian icon Ronaldo won the FIFA Player of the Year award three times as well, and the two awards merged beginning in 2010.

On the women's side, Japan's Homare Sawa ended Brazilian star Marta's five-year reign as Player of the Year, riding her tremendous performance in leading Japan to the championship at this past summer's Women's World Cup to capture the honors. U.S. women's national team forward Abby Wambach finished third in the voting.

As for the other awards handed out in Zurich:


There was an overwhelming presence of players from Barcelona and Real Madrid on FIFA's Team of the Year, as all but two of the 11 spots belonged to the Clasico rivalry.

Iker Casillas, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Nemanja Vidic, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney earned the nods.


There were a number of tremendous finishes around the world this season, but Neymar's goal against Flamengo took home the Puskas Award for best goal of the year. He beat out Rooney (bicycle kick against Manchester City) and Messi (goal against Arsenal) to win the award. Re-watch his strike here:


Men's Coach of the Year: Pep Guardiola, Barcelona (beat Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho and Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson)

Women's Coach of the Year: Norio Sasaki, Japan national team (beat U.S. women's national team coach Pia Sundhage and France coach Bruno Bini)

FIFA Fair Play Award: Japan Football Association

Presidential Award: Sir Alex Ferguson


What do you think of the award results? Think Messi is already the best of all time? Happy to see Sawa earn the recognition? Who makes your Team of the Year? Think Neymar's goal was the best of 2011?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Khan

    How did Wayne Rooney make it onto that list?

    Glad to see Sawa bringing home the award, cannot believe she came in 5th place in the AP’s female athlete of the year.


  • K Bone

    As a United fan, I’m a little puzzled that one as well. He did end last season on fire and he started this season great too, but no way was he the best striker. I guess since United was in the CL final they didn’t want them to feel left out and had to add two United players to the team (although Vidic does deserve it)…


  • Vic

    Did they award it to Messi for next year also? It would be nice for Xavi to receive the award at least once considering his great play for club and country. Messi doesn’t play that well for Argentina because he doesn’t have Xavi and Iniesta to provide 80% possession.


  • Khan

    Two matches earlier this year saw both Xavi and Iniesta sitting out. Messi scored a hat trick in both matches.

    The notion that a great player playing with other great players makes them less of a great player is logically insulting.


  • Khan

    Yeah, Vidic is a beastly defender. United’s record when Vidic doesn’t play is abysmal for a team of that quality.


  • vic

    In Copa Del Rey championship against Madrid last year, Madrid was outplaying Barcelona until the 2nd half when Xavi came in. Once Xavi came in Barcelona dominated possession. Messi needs to play great with Argentina in the World Cup and Copa America to be considered a great player in history.


  • Khan

    Vic, what does your comment have to do with the skill of Messi?

    Soccer is a team game, and teams have parts that work well together. It’s no surprised that taking Xavi out of the middle would hurt possession. It’s not like Messi plays every single position. Possession is established by many different players and with Barcelona it is dictated by the midfield triumvirate of Iniesta, Messi and Xavi.

    Argentina is undeniably one of the worst run teams in the world. Their ineptitude is only matched by African teams torn apart by war, poverty and corruption. They let Maradona coach for heaven’s sake. They have 4 world class forwards, no competent central midfielders and let’s not even discuss their defense.

    If you’ve watched Argentina play you would see that Messi falls back into the Xavi role for Argentina. People expecting to see his incredible runs will be disappointed as long as he is forced to move back to the midfield to distribute and connect the defense with the forwards. Even with that ineptitude Messi still won the Olympics and U-21 World Cup.. and currently is Argentina’s leading assist man.

    And as for playing against Madrid, Messi always shines through. Nobody can forget the incredible one-man efforts that have resulted in timely goals. His slalom run through 5 Madrid defenders to put Barcelona ahead in the Champions League was one of the most incredible Clasico goals of all time.

    Bottom line, a great team allows a great player the ability to do special things. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who can tell you with a straight-face that Messi does not do things that have never been seen before. His touch, agility, vision and composure are on a level that just baffles even his own teammates.


  • Eurosnob

    Xavi is a magnificent player, but he is not the reason why Messi is great. Messi is a very special player – just enjoy watching him while you can.


  • Tyrone

    Many people already consider Messi “a great player in history”. It’s the “best” that is up for argument, and where Messi’s NT accomplishments hold more sway. But to say that he isn’t a great player in history is ignoring what he has already accomplished, which is A LOT.


  • Tyrone

    Well said, particularly the part about Messi playing more of a midfield role with Argentina.


  • jbrader

    Agreed. But I also think that you don’t even need to make this argument anymore. I no longer think that national team success is necessary in these ‘worlds best’ or ‘best ever” debates. The Champions League is now the quality standard in football, far higher than the WC. I really don’t see how you can argue for anyone but Messi.

    Sorry for the link if it’s outlawed, but
    19/19 of these (pretty impressive list of) guys agreed unanimously:


  • timmytwoshoezzz

    Rick Santorum would like to object to your premise that arguments can be logically insulting.


  • Robin

    Only Barca fans would say that Messi wins which in America is 95% of the population. We all know that Van Persie AT LEAST deserves nomination.


  • Robin

    Barca fans can cheer all they want but Messi was not the best. He was great don’t get me wrong but the best he was not. Nor was Ronaldo. Xavi was great and deserves the cup at least once. Also van Persie needed to be considered this year as he was brilliant in 2011.

    To me Xavi and RVP will be another Henry in which they both deserve the Ballon’de or but they never win it. Sad that FIFA runs that way.


  • boosted335

    yeah..not so much. We had goals in MLS better than Rooney. Hasli’s and the the juggle/volley from the dude from Portland

    But whats up with the defender in that Neymar clip..?!!? Making sure everyone saw he didnt foul him…you SHOULD have fouled him you simple putz


  • abc

    While I think RVP should definitely have been in the top five (Rooney? wtf), it’s funny that this comment is by Robin.


  • Tom

    RVP’s career best season actually isn’t as good as Messi’s every season now. Same goes for everybody else. That’s why he’s competing with history now.


  • Ivan

    Messi is the best player to ever play the beautiful game; sheer genius, sheer poetry, a level of skill and footballing intelligence never before seen in the game. I feel lucky and privileged to be able to watch Messi on GolTV and Fox Soccer on a weekly basis. I don’t think I will ever see a player like him in my lifetime!


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