Skip to main content

Messi makes history as Europe's best

Lionel Messi has been instrumental in Barcelona's most successful ever year.
Lionel Messi has been instrumental in Barcelona's most successful ever year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi crowned the 2009 Ballon d'Or winner
  • He won 473 votes -- 240 more than second-placed Cristiano Ronaldo, who won last year
  • The 22-year-old Messi is the first Argentinian to win the award, launched in 1956
  • It is organized by France Football magazine to recognize the best player in Europe
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been named the best player in Europe, becoming the first Argentine to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or award on Tuesday.

Last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo came second, with Messi's teammates from Barcelona's historic 2008-09 treble-winning side -- Spain midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta plus Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o (now at Inter Milan) -- rounding out the top five.

The 22-year-old Messi helped the Catalan giants to the Spanish La Liga and European Champions League titles as well as the Copa Del Rey, while his Argentina side scraped into the World Cup finals after finishing fourth in their South American qualifying campaign.

Messi told France Football magazine, organizers of the award, that he knew he was "among the favorites because Barcelona had a profitable year."

"For me it's a big honor to win -- but also to become the first Argentinian in history to receive the trophy," he said.

"I dedicate it to my family, they were always present when I needed them and sometimes felt even stronger emotions than me."

Messi is the first Barcelona player to win the award since Brazilian forward Ronaldinho took it in 2005, and the sixth to have won it while at the club.

I dedicate it to my family, they were always present when I needed them
--Lionel Messi

He dominated the Ballon d'Or voting, polling 473 votes compared to second-placed Ronaldo's 233, and 27 more than the Real Madrid and Portugal winger received when he won it in 2008 for his exploits while with Manchester United.

The rest of the top-10 was completed by: Brazil playmaker Kaka, Real Madrid's summer signing from AC Milan; Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who joined Barcelona from Inter in the off-season; England forward Wayne Rooney of United; Chelsea's Ivory Coast frontman Didier Drogba; and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard of England.

The award was only open to European players before 1995, and that year AC Milan's Liberian star George Weah became the first from outside the continent to win it.

Argentina-born Alfredo Di Stefano was named Europe's top player twice in the 1950s while at Real Madrid, but had acquired Spanish citizenship by that time.