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'El Pulga' still rules

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 08:56 PM PST

Messi voted the best in 2010

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 12:48:00

ZURICH: Argentine wizard Lionel Messi this morning became the inaugural winner of the Fifa Ballon d'Or at a glittering awards ceremony in Zurich.

Lionel Messi

THE MESSI-AH: Messi won the first Fifa Ballon D'or this morning

Messi was selected ahead of Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who both won the World Cup with Spain in South Africa last summer.

The 23-year-old scored an astonishing 60 goals for club and country in 2010 and is regarded by many as the most gifted player of his generation.

In fact, he had a phenomenal 12 months in which he led Barca to a Spanish Primera Liga triumph and was widely acknowledged as the finest player in the world.

The Fifa Ballon d'Or was created following the merging of France Football magazine's European Footballer-of-the-Year prize with the Fifa World Player-of-the-Year gong. As such, it is awarded based on votes cast by journalists from around the world and coaches and captains of national teams.

Messi, or La Pulga or "The Flea", was the holder of both titles and therefore joins former Brazil strikers Ronaldo and Rivaldo and Frenchman Zinedine Zidane as a multiple winner of the latter accolade.

Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Kevin Keegan, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Ronaldo are the only other men to win the Ballon d'Or more than once.

Messi also became the first player to be awarded the prize in a World Cup year without having won the tournament for the first time since 1994 (when non-Europeans were ineligible).

Messi admitted he did not expect to win. He remained humble and told the congregation at the Zurich Kongresshaus: "It's a very special day for me.

"I didn't expect to win it today. Already, it's a source of happiness to be here with my friends and even more to win it."

Messi won surprisingly easily — polling 22.65 per cent of the votes to Iniesta's 17.36 and Xavi's 16.48. For the record, the only Spanish winner of either prize was Luis Suarez who won the Ballon D'Or in 1960.

Spain's only consolation was that they had six players in the world team of the year. Iniesta and Xavi were joined by Iker Casillas, David Villa, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique.

Brazilians Lucio and Maicon, Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi completed the line-up.

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Real Special

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 08:48 PM PST

Mourinho proud to be named the best in 2010

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 12:45:00

ZURICH: Jose Mourinho put himself on the same pedestal as revered compatriots Eusebio, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo after becoming the first Portuguese winner of the Coach-of-the-Year award in Zurich this morning.

Jose Mourinho

I'M SO SPECIAL: Mourinho giving his acceptance speech after receiving the Coach-of-the-Year award

But Mourinho was not entirely satisfied with the evening, saying the Inter Milan team he coached to a treble last season should have been represented among the three candidates for the Player-of-the-Year award won by Lionel Messi.

"Obviously for me, the most important are the collective titles, not the individual ones... but it's a historic trophy, historic for me, historic for Portuguese football as well and obviously I feel great pride," he said.

"I'm proudly Portuguese, the Portuguese don't have so many of these proud moments, and this is certainly good for Portuguese ego.

"After Eusebio, Figo, and Ronaldo, we are now four golden balls." Mourinho's award was the result of a poll conducted jointly by Fifa and France Football magazine, who also joined forces to produce the first Fifa Ballon D'Or Player-of-the-Year award.

Figo and Ronaldo each won both the old Fifa and France Football awards while Eusebio, who played long before the Fifa award existed, also won the latter. Mourinho, now with Real Madrid, won a Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup treble with Inter last season.

That success only went on to enhance his reputation further as he was already one of the world's most sought after coaches having won the Serie A title with Inter in 2008-2009, two Premier League and one FA Cup titles with Chelsea and Champions League, Uefa Cup and two league titles with Porto.

Barcelona trio Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi were contenders for the player's award but Mourinho said there should have been room for at least one member of his Inter team.

"Inter — European champions, world champions, champions of everything — were a little hard done by in my opinion," he said.

"To have not had anyone among the players sitting in these three chairs, for me, it was something of an injustice. It had special meaning that their trainer had won a historic trophy."

Mourinho was close to tears during the ceremony when Inter player Wesley Sneijder thanked him from the stage after being picked in the world XI.

"The most important is to hear words like the ones from Sneijder which affect you more than the trophies you can win," said Mourinho.

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