Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi has been named world footballer of the year for the fourth time in a row, marking another unprecedented achievement. He pipped Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo to the title.
No other male footballer has been named the best on the planet in four separate years, let alone four in succession.
Lionel Messi, still only 25 years old, was awarded FIFA's Ballon d'Or at a ceremony in Zurich on Monday evening. Messi won the Ballon d'Or in 2011 and 2010, and in 2009 he was named FIFA's World Player of the Year - the previous incarnation of the award.
Messi scored 91 goals and set up another 22 in just 69 games during the 2012 calendar year, breaking the 40-year goal record set by German legend Gerd Müller.
"It's incredible to win a fourth in a row, amazing," Messi said. "I want to share this with my Barcelona team mates and my Argentina team mates."
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who spearheaded his side's title challenge at Barcelona's expense, was voted in second, with Messi's Barcelona team mate Andres Iniesta third.
Loyal Löw praises his own
The Ballon d'Or decision is reached via a vote of countries' national team coaches, captains, and media representatives, who choose their own top three in order of preference, with points allocated accordingly.
Germany coach Joachim Löw chose to honor his own star players, voting playmaker Mesut Özil as number 1, with his goalie Manuel Neuer in second and Barcelona midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez third. Özil was the best-placed German in the overall standings, voted into 14th place for his season as Real Madrid string-puller.
Löw's captain Philipp Lahm, one might argue, voted more with his head than his heart, picking Iniesta, then Messi, then Ronaldo - meaning he had the top three, just in a different order.
Olympic winner Wambach breaks Marta's streak
US star striker Abby Wambach won the women's player of the year award, beating Brazilian Marta - who won the title for the previous five straight years in a display of dominance eclipsing even Messi. The US team, runners-up in the 2011 World Cup, won gold at London's summer Olympics.
Spain's Euro 2012 mastermind Vicente del Bosque was named men's coach of the year, while Pia Sundhage of Sweden (and formerly the US) won the women's coaching award.
Martin Stoch of Fenerbahce won the 2012 [Ferenc] Puskas award for the year's best goal, for a stunning edge-of-the-box volley direct from a corner kick.
Germany's Franz Beckenbauer was handed the president's award for oustanding service to football.
Spanish teams, players dominate world XI
FIFA's team of the year was notably dominated by the Euro 2012-winning Spanish side, along with that country's two super clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. No Germany or Bundesliga player made the cut, while the same could be said for the top divisions in France, England and the Netherlands. This was the chosen 11, all of whom ply their trade in Spain:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Spain).
Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid, Brazil), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain), Gerard Pique (Barcelona, Spain), Dani Alves (Barcelona, Brazil).
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain).
Attackers: Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid, Brazil), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal).
msh/hc (SID, dpa, Reuters)
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