Lionel Messi won an unprecedented fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or last night after his record-breaking 91 goals in 2012 – but still branded the year not one of his best.
The forward, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo into second place with Andres Iniesta third, surpassed Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record of 85 goals in a calendar year, but missed out on the Champions League and Primera Division titles with Barcelona.
“I’m more interested in team awards than I am about what I might win individually,” he said at the pre-gala press conference in Zurich. “There have been years where we won more titles that have been better.”
The 25-year-old polled 41.60% of the votes, with Real Madrid star Ronaldo taking 23.68 per cent and Barca midfielder Iniesta 10.91%.
Messi also dismissed talk of a rivalry with Ronaldo, saying: “I play to win titles, that’s what we have in the end. I don’t compete against him (Ronaldo), I do my best to help my team, my national team and to continue improving.”
Despite the lack of club silverware, Messi racked up a host of personal achievements last year.
He scored an unprecedented 50 goals in a La Liga season, a record 14 goals in a Champions League season and became the first player to net five times in a Champions League match.
He also shattered the myth that he does not perform as well for Argentina as he does for his club by scoring 12 goals for his country in nine games.
Messi’s fourth award took him past the three FIFA gongs won by both former Brazil striker Ronaldo and former France midfielder Zinedine Zidane.
France great Michel Platini, and former Holland forwards Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten all won the old Ballon d’Or trophy for European footballer of the year three times.
Receiving the award, Messi, wearing a polka-dotted dinner jacket and matching bow tie, said: “To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.
“I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona; Andres it has been great to train and play alongside you.
“I would also like to recognise all of my friends in the Argentinian national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you.”
The award was voted for by national team coaches and captains plus invited journalists.
Fenerbahce’s Miroslav Stoch won the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque was named World Coach of the Year and United States international Abby Wambach won Women’s World Player of the Year.
The FIFPro World XI was made up entirely of players based in Spain with Barcelona’s Dani Alves, Gerard Pique and Xavi, Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso and Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao joining the three Ballon d’Or nominees in the team.
Franz Beckenbauer received the FIFA Presidential Award.