Messi retains Ballon d'Or award despite 'Trap' snub
Already judged one of football's all-time greats at just 24, Lionel Messi unsurprisingly extended his reign as the world's best player for a third year last night.
The Barcelona and Argentina forward received the FIFA Ballon d'Or award for 2011, beating his club team-mate Xavi Hernandez and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid to the game's most prestigious individual honour.
And he did so without despite being ignored by Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni in voting for the prestigious award.
Trapattoni gave his first preference (worth five points) to Xavi, followed by Wayne Rooney (three points) and Andrés Iniesta (one point).
Ireland captain Robbie Keane plumped for Iniesta as the best, with Messi and Wesley Sneijder completing his selection.
"It's a huge pleasure for me," Messi said, after accepting the trophy from another three-time winner, former Brazil forward Ronaldo. "It's the third time I get this award, and it's a huge honour."
Messi is the first man to win three straight FIFA world player awards in the honour's 21-year history. Zinedine Zidane of France also won three FIFA player awards.
Messi received 47.88pc of the points in votes cast by national team coaches and captains plus invited journalists.
Cristiano Ronaldo finished second with 21.6pc and Xavi got 9.23pc to finish third for the third straight year.
"This one is very special because I want to share this with my friend and team-mate Xavi . He deserves it," Messi said.
Barca's Pep Guardiola was chosen as Coach of the Year, ahead of Madrid's Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.
FIFA's world player honour merged last year with the Ballon d'Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine since 1956.
Messi joins Michel Platini in winning the Ballon d'Or for three consecutive years, though the France great won from 1983-85 when only European players were eligible.
Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten also received three Ballons d'Or in their careers.
All three Ballon d'Or nominees were chosen in a World XI line-up chosen by the FIFPro group of players' unions comprising 50,000 members worldwide.
They selected a team composed entirely of Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester United players.
Madrid captain Iker Casillas was selected as goalkeeper. In defence, Barcelona's Dani Alves and Gerard Pique lined up alongside Madrid's Sergio Ramos and Nemanja Vidic of United.
Xavi anchored a midfield trio with Barcelona team-mate Iniesta and Madrid's Xabi Alonso. Messi led the attack with Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.