Lionel Messi wins Europe's Ballon d'Or award

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Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi has been named European Footballer of the Year to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or award.

French magazine France Football said that Messi beat last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo into second place by a massive margin - 473 points to 233.

Messi, 22, won the treble of Champions League, the Spanish championship and Spanish cup with Barcelona last season.

He also top-scored in the Champions League with nine goals.

One of them was in the defeat of Manchester United in the final in Rome.

Third and fourth place in the voting were Messi's Barcelona team-mates, the midfielders Xavi (170 points) and Iniesta (149).

Striker Samuel Eto'o, who left Barcelona for Inter Milan during the close-season, was fifth.

The highest-placed English player was Wayne Rooney, who was eighth.

'Fruitful year'

France Football said Messi was only seven points short of the maximum available from the 96 jurors.

The magazine quoted Messi as saying: "Honestly, I knew that I was among the favourites because Barcelona had a fruitful year in 2009.

"But I didn't expect to win with such a margin. The Golden Ball is very important to me. All the players who won it were great players, and some great players never won it."

He added: "I dedicate it to my family. They were always present when I needed them and sometimes felt even stronger emotions than me."

Barcelona picked up Messi at an early age from the Newells Old Boys youth team.

Four years ago, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who has since become the national team manager, said Messi would be the player to take over his mantle as national hero.


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