Ballon d’Or 2010: ‘Surprised’ Lionel Messi is worthy winner

He may have not expected it, but Messi more than deserves his crown, writes Martin Caparrotta

lionel messi xavi
Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta face the media before the awards ceremony in Zurich

lionel messi xavi

While it is never a surprise to see Lionel Messi win an award, the footballing world was perhaps slightly taken aback on Monday when the Argentine was named as winner of the Fifa Ballon d’Or in Zurich.

The 23-year-old Barcelona forward beat off competition from club team-mates and World Cup winners Andres Iniesta and Xavi to scoop the prize for the second year running and once again confirm his status as one of the most gifted footballers of his generation.

The final vote was not as close as many had predicted. Messi, who scored 60 goals for both club and country in 2010, beat second-placed Iniesta by more than five per cent of the vote, with Xavi trailing the Argentine by just over six in third place.

Many had tipped Iniesta, who scored the extra-time goal against the Netherlands that brought Spain their first World Cup crown last summer, to triumph ahead of Messi. Others had expected to finally see Xavi’s immaculate passing game appropriately rewarded. But just as his opponents are forced to every week, these two of his Barcelona team-mates have learnt that no one can afford to overlook Messi.

The footballing superstar himself admitted to being surprised at hearing his name called out by his manager Pep Guardiola when the moment came. “I’m surprised to win but pleased to be here with my friends,” he said. “I want to share it with all of my friends, my family, all the Barcelonistas and the Argentinians.”

Interestingly, if it were only journalists’ votes that counted, Wesley Sneijder would have won this year’s crown, with Iniesta in second place and Xavi in third. The media also paid tribute to Diego Forlan’s impressive World Cup campaign with Uruguay by awarding him over 3.5 per cent of their votes.

Sneijder, who enjoyed a memorable 2010 after having won the treble with Inter Milan before helping his Holland side reach the World Cup final, finished fourth in the final standings, two per cent behind Xavi.

But there is no denying Messi as a worthy winner. He may have failed to shine for Argentina in South Africa, but his consistently sublime form in Barcelona colours throughout 2010, including his single-handed destruction of Arsenal in Champions League quarter-final at Camp Nou, is more than enough justification for him to have scooped this award again.

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