Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 February 2015

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is top choice for Northern Ireland

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 07: Lionel Messi of Argentina receives the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 trophy on January 7, 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi had a little help from the Northern Ireland football fraternity when he won the FIFA Ballon D'Or for the fourth time in a row.

Messi collected the coveted award in Zurich, fending off competition from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who had to settle for second place once again in the race to be the world’s best player.

Messi's Barcelona team mate Andres Iniesta was third thanks to his sensational performances for Spain in Euro 2012.

The manager, captain and a media representative from each FIFA nation vote for their top three players of 2012 to decide who wins the famous award.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill selected Argentina’s Messi as his first choice and Portugal’s Ronaldo as his second but opted for Juventus and Italy deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo as his third selection.

O'Neill's captain Steve Davis also selected Messi and Ronaldo as his first and second choices, but the Southampton man selected fellow midfielder Iniesta as his third pick.

BBC Northern Ireland commentators Jackie Fullerton and Joel Taggart shared the media vote, selecting Messi as their first choice, Ronaldo in second and Iniesta in third.

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