Lionel Messi was awarded the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or at a star-studded ceremony in Zurich, the third consecutive year that he has won the prestigious award for the world's outstanding footballer.
The 24-year-old Barcelona and Argentina forward yesterday finished ahead of his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca team-mate Xavi.
Messi congratulated by Colombian singer Shakira.PIC/AFP
"It's a great personal pleasure for me," said Messi. "It's the third time I've won it. It's just an amazing honour. I want to thank everyone that's been involved with me -- my team-mates, trainers, physios, the coach (Pep Guardiola) and everyone at Barcelona.
"I'd also like to thank the Argentina national team as well." Messi becomes only the second player, after current UEFA president Michel Platini, to win the award for three consecutive years. He also joins Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten as the only men to have won the prize on three occasions.
"I want to share this honour with my team-mate, Xavi," added Messi, who then addressed his club-mate in the audience at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala. "He deserves it, too. I want to share it with you, because you deserve it as much as me. It's a pleasure to be here alongside him and to play with him."
The award was formed when the Ballon d'Or merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2010 and is voted for by national team coaches and captains, as well as a panel of football journalists selected by France Football magazine.