FIFA Ballon D'Or 2011: Lionel Messi wins it for FC Barcelona

Four titans of football past, present and future

FC Barcelona have dominated the proceedings at the annual FIFA Ballon D’Or awards, with Lionel Messi winning the title for the third year in succession. Pep Guardiola claimed the Coach of the Year award while the FIFPro team of the year contained no less than five Barcelona players. As if that wasn’t enough, Xavi rounded off the podium for the Ballon D’Or in third place with his partner in crime Andres Iniesta in fourth.

Lionel Messi will rightly grab the headlines for this magnificent achievement; it is hard to believe that he is only 24. This is his fifth successive year on the podium, and a record-equalling third Ballon D’Or. At this point, it seems inconceivable that the Argentine will not go on to set the bar so high it may never be passed, time is on his side, and with his teammates by his side, he has the perfect platform to further improve. After all, he "only" received 47% of the vote!

Amongst all the jubilation for Messi and Guardiola, one cannot help but feel aggrieved that Xavi was not at least second. His efforts over the past year have been pivotal to Barcelona’s success, although he is unfortunate to live in the same era as Messi and Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward may not be to everyone’s liking, but he is a superb player operating at a similar level to Lionel Messi, at least in terms of goal-scoring. He is working on his teamwork, his side is getting better and if Real go on to success in the remainder of the season, he might reclaim the title from Messi in 2013. That is not a thought I wish to entertain at the moment, especially after finding out Pep enjoys a bit of James Blunt...

It is time for Barcelona to celebrate, but it is also time to look forward. They are enjoying this feeling of success, and the level of respect they command is simply unreal, but these awards have to earned on the pitch. Judging by the derby match at the weekend, there is plenty of work to be done away from the Camp Nou, and the next month or so will be the most important of Guardiola’s reign. This is where we learn what this team is made of.

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