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Ballon d'Or: Messi wins Ulster vote

By Keith Bailie

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi lifted his third Fifa Ballon d'Or award in a row on Monday night, with a little help from Northern Ireland.

The manager, captain and a media representative from each nation vote for their top three players of 2011 to decide who wins the coveted Fifa award.

Former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes was so certain that Messi was the best player in the world he didn't nominate a second or third choice.

Hughes was the only one of 147 international captains not to use all three available votes.

Ex-Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington voted for Messi as his first choice, with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo second and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney third.

BBC Northern Ireland commentators Jackie Fullerton and Joel Taggart shared the media vote, selecting Messi as first choice, Andres Iniesta second and Barcelona full-back Eric Abidal third.

The Frenchman may seem an unlikely choice, but the 32-year-old recovered from an operation to remove a tumour from his liver in March, to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May, playing the full 90 minutes of Barca’s 3-1 win over Manchester United.

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