Spain hails Messi 'the greatest'
Spain bathed in glory on Tuesday after Barcelona star Lionel Messi
won the Ballon d'Or for best footballer of the year for a record fourth
time, cementing his claim to be one of the greatest players of all time.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque also snatched top honours, in
recognition of their Euro 2012 triumph, which followed its 2010 World
Cup win and Euro 2008 crown, to top a virtual clean sweep for Spanish
and La Liga players at the prestigious awards.
But it was the smiling 25-year-old Argentine international who stole
the show, with pictures of him picking up the FIFA prize in Zurich
dressed in an eye brow-raising black and white-spotted suit and bow tie,
splashed across front pages.
"Spain!!!" headlined Madrid-based Marca, Spain's biggest-selling
sports daily and a favourite of Real Madrid fans.
"Unique, unmatchable Messi," the paper said after the striker scored
a stunning 91 goals in 2012 in all competitions, smashing the
40-year-old record of German legend Gerd Mueller of 85.
"Leo Messi was crowned yesterday as the best player in history,"
Marca said. "No-one until now had won four Ballons d'Or in a row. Leo
has done it, and consecutively." Rival sports daily AS, too, lavished
praise on Messi.
"Since we have known him, every year he plays better, every year he
scores more goals," said the paper's columnist Alfredo Relano. "I have
never seen a player with such power. He lacks aesthetic but he has
plenty of everything else," he said, predicting even more Ballons d'Or
"Golden Messi," headlined the Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo,
adding: "Leo Messi is the greatest. Huge. Unique." On his return to
Barcelona airport, Messi told reporters that he had forgotten many
people in his speech but had wanted to mention Barca coach Tito
Vilanova, who is being treated for a cancer of the salivary gland, and
defender Eric Abidal.
The French defender is training with the squad again after a liver
transplant. "When things calmed down I remembered Tito and Abidal and
everyone, obviously," Messi said, apologising for his omission. Messi
was one of three players in the Spanish league on the shortlist for the
world's best footballer award.
The two others were his Barca team-mate Andres Iniesta and rival
striker Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
In addition, all of the top six names in the final ranking that Messi
topped were from La Liga teams. In the FIFPro selection for the best
11-man line-up, meanwhile, six were Spaniards and all but two were from
the Spanish league.
That selection included Ronaldo and three other Real players -- Iker
Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso -- plus Iniesta, Messi and two
other Barcelona players, Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez..