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It’s a hat-trick as Messi takes Ballon d'Or again

By Martyn Ziegler

Lionel Messi was last night awarded the Fifa Ballon d'Or for the third successive year.

Barcelona's 24-year-old Argentina striker beat team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of the world's best player.

Messi, man of the match in the Champions League final in 2011, also won the Primera Division, Spanish Supercopa, Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup last year.

Barcelona team-mate Xavi paid tribute to Messi saying: “He's still young, only 24, and I think he's going to break all the records that exist in this sport.

“He's going to be one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.”

Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson lost out against Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in the Coach of the Year award. But the Old Trafford supremo was given the Fifa presidential award for services to football.

The 70-year-old Scot was presented with the award by Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter said: “Elite football is all about results and winning and there is no one better at it than him.

“His first major success came at Aberdeen in 1983 but what is absolutely extraordinary is that in a world in which coaches are expected to produce instant results or be changed, his longevity is a shining example of what can be achieved through stability, continuity, investment in development and especially in trust and confidence in the personality himself.

“He has earned a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen for services to the game. This exceptional personality in football has been managing the same club for 25 years — can you imagine that today?”

Ferguson himself praised Manchester United for sharing his vision of the game.

He said: “It is an honour for me in the twilight of my life and very, very much appreciated.

In other awards, Japan's women's World Cup-winning captain Homare Sawa was named the women's player.

Japan's (male) manager Norio Sasaki coach of the year for women's football while the Japanese FA were awarded the Fifa fair play award

Brazilian 19-year-old sensation Neymar, wanted by Chelsea, won the Fifa Puskas award for the best goal of 2011. Ferguson’s star striker Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic were both included in the world XI dominated by Spain-based players.

The Fifa Pro World XI is: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd).

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