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Messi wins fourth Ballon D'Or

He might be the greatest player in the world; he might even be the greatest player of all time . . . but a polka dot suit and matching bow-tie? What was Lionel Messi thinking when he kitted himself out to receive his fourth FIFA Ballon D’Or trophy?

Messi finished ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. At 25 he has already outstripped the likes of Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten, who each won the European Footballer of the Year title three times.

"To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable," Messi said. "The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words." The same might be said for his statistics in 2012. He scored 91 goals in 69 matches, despite the fact that Barcelona were in something of a slump last year, winning only the Copa Del Rey.

The rivalry with Real Madrid’s Ronaldo has obviously sharpened Messi’s competitive instincts, although he makes a better show of disguising the rivalry than Ronaldo. The Real manager Jose Mourinho had been foremost in campaigning for his player to get the award. "How can Messi win the Ballon d'Or without winning the league or the Champions League?" Mourinho demanded.

Messi’s dominance even eclipses the Spanish stars who continue to dominate the major international competitions. Messi won in 2011 ahead of World Cup winners Xavi and Iniesta. He was ahead of Iniesta again after a year in which Spain retained the European Championship.

"I don't need individual awards to feel recognised; football is a collective game," Iniesta said, after seeing his Barcelona teammate pick up the award. It might seem an injustice that a player as brilliant and influential as Iniesta remains just a runner-up but another Barcelona player, Dani Alves, summed up the situation: "For as long as Messi is around, the Ballon d'Or makes no sense."

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