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Lionel Messi has been voted the inaugural winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award in Monaco.
The FC Barcelona forward finished ahead of club-mate Xavi Hernández and Real Madrid CF's Cristiano Ronaldo in a poll of sports journalists representing each of the UEFA member associations. Messi, the overwhelming winner, collected his prize at the UEFA Champions League group stage draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.
The Argentinian international scored 53 goals in 2010/11, including 12 in the UEFA Champions League, where he finished as the top scorer for the third season in succession. His final European goal of the season was Barcelona's second in their 3-1 final defeat of Manchester United FC, their third title in six years, while Messi also helped his club to a third successive Liga title.
"I'd like to thank all the people that voted for me, and all my team-mates." said the 24-year-old, one of four Barcelona players in the top ten, three of whom finished in the top four. "I keep all these awards at home and I still have some space for more. It's an honour to be so successful and to come up with the goods at the right time; thanks to my team-mates for helping me achieve this. [My motivation] comes from being at a club that's so successful and having a structure that allows us to be so successful; that was taught to me when I moved over and I've tried my best to keep it up."
The full top ten is:
1 Lionel Messi (ARG) – FC Barcelona (39 votes)
2 Xavi Hernández (ESP) – FC Barcelona (11 votes)
3 Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) – Real Madrid CF (3 votes)
4 Andrés Iniesta (ESP) – FC Barcelona
5 Falcao (COL) – FC Porto*
6 Wayne Rooney (ENG) – Manchester United FC
7 Nemanja Vidić (SRB) – Manchester United FC
8 Zlatan Ibrahimović (SWE) – AC Milan
Gerard Piqué (ESP) – FC Barcelona
10 Manuel Neuer (GER) – FC Schalke 04*
*has since joined Club Atlético de Madrid
** has since joined FC Bayern München
The award replaces the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award claimed in 2010 by FC Internazionale Milano's Diego Milito, a year after Messi won the prize. That award formed part of the UEFA Club Football Awards which also included prizes for best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, forward and coach and had been presented in Monaco every August since 1998.
The UEFA Best Player in Europe Award was born out of an initiative by UEFA President Michel Platini and has the intention of reviving the spirit of the old European Footballer of the Year award. For the new award, players were judged by their performances during the 2010/11 campaign in all competitions, both domestic and international, and at club and national team levels.
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