Messi surprisingly retains FIFA Ballon d'Or award
Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi was surprisingly announced the winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award on Monday, dpa reported.
The newly named award resulted from the merger of the FIFA World Player and the Ballon d'Or awards, both of which Messi won last year.
Messi, 23, who made history by becoming the first Argentine player to win the award in 2009, beat off Barcelona team-mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta to retain the trophy.
Messi's victory came as something of a surprise because it was expected that either Iniesta or Xavi would finish first in the polling because of their stellar roles in helping Spain to win the World Cup for the first time.
Messi was outstanding for Barcelona throughout 2010 but failed to score at the World Cup for Argentina, who were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals.
The announcement of Messi's win was made by Pep Guardiola, his coach at Barcelona, who then handed over the famous golden ball to the impish little Argentine.
Messi himself admitted that he was surprised at winning the coveted award again.
His voice breaking with emotion, he said: "I did not expect to win this year. For me it is an enormous joy to be here with two team- mates like Xavi and Iniesta."
"This is special for me and I'd like to share this award with my team-mates, with all the people that have helped me and with all of the Argentine people," he continued.
Messi's win received a rather muted reaction in Spain because it had been expected that the award would finally go to a Spaniard after the World Cup win.
Francisco Carrasco, Spain's star winger in the 1980s, commented on state television channel Television Espanola that "this is a bit of a blow for Spanish football, we really thought that it would be a Spanish player this time."
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, for his part, said: "All of us Spaniards are a little disappointed at this. I would have liked Xavi or Andres (Iniesta) to have won this."
Only once has a Spaniard won the Ballon d'Or, Barcelona schemer Luis Suarez back in 1960.
The headline on the website of sports daily Marca was "Messi Leaves Spain Without The Ballon d'Or." An online poll taken by Marca showed that 69.4 per cent of readers did not believe that Messi was a deserved winner.
A similar poll taken by rival daily AS showed 70 per cent of readers in disagreement with the award.
Meanwhile, an online poll taken by Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo - which is mostly read by Barcelona fans - showed that 57 per cent of readers thought that the award should have gone to Xavi and nine per cent to Iniesta - with 34 per cent agreeing that Messi deserved it.
An earlier setback for Spain at the FIFA Gala had come when Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho received the best coach of 2010 award, ahead of Spain manager Vicente del Bosque and Barcelona's Guardiola.
Mourinho is currently in charge of Spanish giants Real Madrid, but won the award for guiding Inter Milan to the treble of Italian league, cup and Champions League.
However, there was some consolation for Spain in that six Spaniards - Casillas, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and David Villa - were included in the ideal team of 2010. All of these Spaniards, except Real Madrid goalkeeper Casillas, are Barcelona players.
The Ferenc Puskas award for the best goal of 2010 went to Turkey midfielder Hamit Altintop, for a spectacular volley against Kazakhstan.
The award for the best female player of 2010 went to Brazilian star Marta, for the fifth consecutive year.