ZURICH, (Reuters) – Lionel Messi, still only 25, was named the world’s best player for the fourth time in a row yesterday after a year in which he finally produced his best form for Argentina as well as Barcelona.
Messi was handed the FIFA Ballon D’Or award after a typically cheesy ceremony which featured a performance from a giant dancing armadillo named Fuleco, the mascot for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, winner in 2008, finished runner-up behind Messi for the third time and Messi’s Barcelona team mate Andres Iniesta was third.
For the third time in a row since FIFA’s Player of the Year of the year merged with France Football’s Ballon d’Or, the podium was shared by three players based in La Liga.
Spain’s Vicente del Bosque won the coach of the year award in a poll where FIFA bafflingly failed to look beyond coaches based in Europe.
Herve Renard, who led Zambia to a poignant and highly unlikely win at the African Nations Cup one year ago, and Tite, coach of South American and world club champions Corinthians, both failed to make the original shortlist of 10 coaches. Del Bosque’s two rivals on the night were former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who is currently on a one-year sabbatical and won only the King’s Cup last season, and Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho, who won La Liga.
Brazil’s participation was restricted to the armadillo, a capoeira dance group that performed early in the ceremony and cameo appearances from former forward Ronaldo and national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who presented two awards.