Lionel Messi was named the world’s best soccer player Monday, winning the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) award. It was the third-straight year the Argentina and Barcelona star has won the award, putting him in select company alongside some of the game’s all-time greats.
“It is a big pleasure to win the third, a big honor,” Messi said. “I want to thank the teammates, players and coaches that voted me.
“I want to thank my Barcelona and Argentina teammates, without them this would have been impossible. But most of all, I want to share it with [finalist and teammate] Xavi: you deserve this as much as I do.”
The 24-year-old phenomenon fired Barcelona to victory in Spain’s La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2011.
The 2010-11 season saw Messi score 53 goals in 55 games for Barca in all competitions. He’s added 31 goals in 28 games so far this season.
He joines Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane as three-time winners of the FIFA player of the year award. Last year, it was renamed the FIFA Ballon d’Or, when it merged with France Football magazine’s Ballon d’Or award. Michel Platini won that award from 1983-85.