Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Messi wins record 4th world’s best player award

ZURICH — Lionel Messi became the first four-time winner of the FIFA Player of the Year award after shattering the world record with 91 goals last year for Barcelona and Argentina.

The 25-year-old won for the fourth straight time, beating Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta in voting announced Monday. His 91 goals topped Gerd Mueller’s mark of 85 for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.

Abby Wambach became the first American to win FIFA Women’s Player of the Year since Mia Hamm in 2001 and 2002. Pia Sundhage was voted top women’s coach after leading Wambach and the U.S. team to the gold medal at last summer’s London Olympics.

Messi received 41.60 percent of the points in votes by national team coaches and captains plus selected media. Ronaldo got 23.68 percent and Iniesta 10.91 percent.

“To tell the truth, this is really unbelievable to get the fourth award. I am so nervous,” Messi said in Spanish, wearing a black tuxedo jacket and bow tie, both with a white polka-dot pattern in an unexpectedly flamboyant touch.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and captain Carlos Bocanegra both voted Messi first, as did Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy.

“Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a privilege to be here,” Ronaldo, the 2008 winner, said at a pre-gala news conference he attended while wearing a New York Yankees cap.

Zinedine Zidane of France and Ronaldo of Brazil were voted FIFA Player of the Year three times before the award merged in 2010 with France Football’s Golden Ball, given to the European player of the year. The Golden Ball, or Ballon d’Or, was won three times by Michel Platini of France and Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten of the Netherlands.

The 32-year-old Wambach received 20.67 percent to edge teammate Alex Morgan (13.5) and five-time winner Marta of Brazil (10.87). Jill Ellis, who was interim U.S. coach last fall, voted Wambach first, as did Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, while American captain Christie Rampone voted Morgan first.

“I’m very, very surprised,” Wambach said. “Not only do I think Marta and Alex could have won, but many other players could have been here as well.”

Wambach, who received the award from American goalkeeper Hope Solo, scored five goals in London as the U.S. won its third straight Olympic title. She has 152 international goals, six shy of Hamm’s record.

“She’s so completely deserving of this award,” Morgan said. “She’s made such a huge mark on women’s soccer over the past decade. She’s an inspiration to not only the thousands of young girls around the country and world, but also to me.”

The U.S. players were serenaded from the stage by Sundhage, who sang a verse of the Bob Dylan song “If Not For You” when she received her award.

Sundhage, who left the U.S. job after the Olympics to coach her native Sweden, got 28.59 percent of the vote to defeat Nono Sasaki of Japan (23.83) and Bruno Bini of France (9.02).

Vicente del Bosque was voted top men’s coach after leading Spain to its third straight title in a major tournament, the 2012 European Championship. Del Bosque got 34.51 percent to win over Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho (20.49), who won last year, and Pep Guardiola (12.91) who won in 2011 and retired from Barcelona last spring.

The three finalists for men’s Player of the Year were on the World XI All-Star team chosen by the FIFPro group of players’ unions, comprising 50,000 members worldwide.

They selected a team composed entirely of players from Spanish clubs, with nine repeating their selection from one year ago.

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas was selected as goalkeeper, joined on defense by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo and by Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique. Iniesta was joined in midfield by Barcelona teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso. Messi led the attack with Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao. Marcelo and Falcao replaced Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney from the 2011 team.

The Puskas Award for the best goal in 2012, voted on by fans, was won by Miroslav Stoch of Fenerbahce, who had a long-range volley last March in a Turkish league game against Genclerbirligi.

Uzbekistan won the fair play award for its good disciplinary record. Sepp Blatter made the FIFA presidential award to Franz Beckenbauer, who captained and coached West Germany to World Cup victories, and then led the local organizing committee of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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