Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi Is Player of the Year for the Fourth Time

The odds-on Argentine favorite wins the prestigious accolade for a record-breaking fourth time

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FIFA Men's Ballon d'Or of the Year nominee Lionel Messi of Argentina watches the trophy during a news conference before the awards ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on Jan. 7, 2013

He breaks records as easily as he finds the back of the net. Barcelona and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the soccer player many believe is the best of all time, won the prestigious Ballon d’Or for a record fourth time (in a row, no less) in Zurich on Monday, beating out his club teammate Andrés Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo, his great Real Madrid and Portuguese rival. “To tell you the truth, it’s really quite unbelievable to win this award,” he said on stage in Spanish. “The fourth award that I’ve had is just too great for words.”

(MORE: The Experts Weigh In: Messi May Be the Best of All Time — Except for One Thing)

Before we yet again extol Messi’s sublime talent, a case can be made in favor of awarding the prize — FIFA merged its World Player of the Year award with France Football’s Ballon d’Or in 2010 — to the other two players whittled down from an earlier 23-man short list. Iniesta didn’t merely win the same number of trophies as his more illustrious teammate but was named the best player of the 2011–12 Champions League tournament and also got his hands on the European Championships, as Spain won back-to-back titles after dismantling Italy 4-0 in the final last year. Oh, and he was declared the player of the Euros to boot.

(MORE: Top 10 Sports Moments of 2012)

Ronaldo positively tore teams to shreds, helping to propel Real to their first league title in four years. He ended the 2011–12 season with 60 goals across all competitions, including at least one against each of his side’s 19 domestic-league opponents, which nobody, not even the magical Messi, has managed (and the Portuguese playmaker became the first player to score in six consecutive Classicos — the epic clashes between Real and Barca). On the international stage, Ronaldo’s three goals and man-of-the-match performances put Portugal in the semifinals, where Iniesta’s Spain eliminated them on penalties.

But whether you agree or not with the decision to award Messi the prize which, not incidentally, puts him ahead of legends of the game such as Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo, who both won the World Player of the Year prize three times, you can’t deny the diminutive Argentine’s genius. As well as Messi’s goals — he managed 91 in the calendar year of 2012, which included five in one Champions League game in March, the same month he became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer — his numerous assists have turned countless games in his club’s favor. Messi’s dribbling, mazy and effortless, is certainly the best seen since his volatile countryman Diego Maradona. Maradona, though, won a World Cup with Argentina, and Messi’s remaining, embittered critics still point to the absence of that gold trophy in his cabinet. Still, he’s been a force for Argentina: last year saw Messi score 12 goals for his country, three of which came against continental nemesis Brazil in a 4-3 win. If he does win the World Cup next year on Brazilian soil, Messi will finally throw off this ridiculous line of attack — and in epic fashion.

(MORE: It’s Official (Kind of): Lionel Messi Is Better than Pelé)

While we live in an age of rotation, where coaches seem reluctant to play their best possible team week in, week out, Messi positively hates being rested and wants to savor every minute on the field of play. No wonder that his former boss Pep Guardiola said, “We will not see another player like Messi.” And the 25-year-old remains humble beyond belief. A young fan asked the three Ballon d’Or finalists on Monday whether they were the best players in their teams when they were his age. “When I was 8, I wasn’t wondering whether I was the best — and I don’t think that now. I only want to play football,” Messi replied, with customary modesty. As he received the inevitable standing ovation after accepting the award in Zurich, no doubt Messi’s mind immediately turned to his true calling — to play football.

TIME COVER STORY: Lionel Messi’s Final Goal

16 comments
elena.pagliaretta
elena.pagliaretta

Sorry, but in this article there are two mistakes. Is not true that Zidane and Ronaldo won eachone three Ballon d'or.Both of them won two and not three awards. Apart from Messi, only the Franch champion Michel Platini, the current President of UEFA, and the Dutch champion Marco Van Basten won in their career three Ballon d'or and only Platini all of them in a row.

Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

Is this really news? Oh dear I prefer trekking than potatoe couch sports !

TayoWillieFatimehin
TayoWillieFatimehin

@adnan7631 u gotta be kidding me man I could say so much more but lets not forget Messi broke a 40 year record held by Gerd Mueller and he has broken quite alot of other records as well.

JesusMorenoMora
JesusMorenoMora

Adnan're really serious? The award is given to the best player, not the best team ... Messi apart from being unique in the way we played game after game and minute by minute, and also has scored 91 goals and 37 assists in a year (2012)

Stephane Kab
Stephane Kab

I'm not a real madrid fan but Jealous down he realy deserves it

Abdallah Belhoucine
Abdallah Belhoucine

We use to have only Mohamed Ali who was called the gret of the greatests...now Messi is joining him

Victoria Russell
Victoria Russell

He is unbelievable and he's only 25! He is well on his way to becoming the best futball/Soccer player of all time.

Kobe Ans
Kobe Ans

He is the greatest in this era but he needs to win a world cup or two and play in a different club to prove it

Kartik Malhotra
Kartik Malhotra

The Chosen One. The guy whose poster i had in my room when hevwas just 18. The superstar i had the privilege of seeing (live in action) in Kolkata in '11. At just 25, he's already done enough to suggest he's the greatest of all time (winning the World Cup would seal this title in his favour). Looking at his age & consistency, who would bet against him winning 4 more Ballon d'Or awards?

Lai Chapmen
Lai Chapmen

He's not a human, he's an alien! Bravo to our great soccer player, Mr. Lionel Messi?

adnan7631
adnan7631

At some point, the Ballon d'Or and other FIFA prizes becomes a joke. Messi wins his 4th Ballon d' Or despite not winning any competitions this year except the Copa del Rey. Yes, he broke the record of goals in a calendar year, and yes, he scored 50 goals in La Liga last season. But look at that number again. Fifty Goals. Does that say anything about the quality of the league? Let's look at the year previous. The golden boot was given to Cristiano Ronaldo for forty goals. This past season, he had forty six. Yes, Messi is the best player in the world, but CLEARLY he is not playing in the best league in the world. Barcelona has assembled so much talent, they might as well be playing a college team. If teams are letting in a combined 96 goals against a mere 2 players, what does that say about the quality of defense? In contrast, the league that had the champion's of Europe, England, gave the golden boot to a player who scored 31 goals (Robin van Persie) . See the difference? On top of that, FIFA actually named a top eleven who play exclusively from Spain. Only 1 of those players was not on either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Mind you, neither of those teams went to the Final of Champion's League. Yes, Spain did win the Euros this year. That said, the other finalist (Italy) does not have a single player on there. In fact, there is not a single other European nationality listed. One can only conclude that there is a significant flaw in the system or that it is rigged. 

adnan7631
adnan7631

@TayoWillieFatimehin

 Yes, Messi is the best player in the world. However, I don't think he was the best player in the past year/ the 2011-2012 season. The fact that La Liga teams are apparently a cake walk to score against along with the fact that Barcelona has assembled the best talent in the world (though they can't pay for it) means that Messi's achievements are muted somewhat. I don't think he was the player of the past year. Apparently, you disagree. Ok, fine. But don't you find it a bit odd that all the finalists for the Ballon d'Or play in Spain? Or that all the top XI play in Spain (All for Real Madrid or Barcelona except for one) or that the only Europeans on there are from Spain? Or how about the fact that all the finalists for coach of the year either coach in Spain or for Spain? This is despite the fact that a Spanish team did not make the Champion's League final. I find it sketchy.


adnan7631
adnan7631

@JesusMorenoMora 

I am referring to FIFA's Best XI which was also presented along with the Ballon d'Or. As I just stated, scoring goals in La Liga is a joke. 


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