MADRID: Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the favorite to win FIFA’s prestigious Ballon d’Or title, was on Monday voted the top striker in the Spanish league last season ahead of Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo. It is the sixth time that the Argentinean has won the title in seven editions of the trophy given by the Spanish football league, with the prize presented during a gala ceremony in Barcelona on Monday night. Messi, who scored 43 goals and was the catalyst for Barcelona’s run to three titles last season-the Champions League, La Liga and the Spanish Cup was selected following a computer analysis of the players’ statistics in the championship.
“I’m proud to receive this award ahead of so many important players in La Liga,” said Messi. “This award in particular I want to dedicate to my son Thiago (aged 3) even if he still doesn’t understand very well. Every time I leave the house he gets angry and asks me: ‘Papa, are you going again to score goals?’ This award is for him.” Messi also won the vote for the best striker following a poll of the captains of each of Spain’s top flight sides. Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo was voted the best goalkeeper and Luis Enrique top coach while Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez were named best defender and midfielder respectively.
Valencia’s Algerian midfielder Sofiane Feghouli was voted the top African player and Barcelona’s Brazilian striker Neymar, the best player from the American continent. Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Ronaldo, who scored the most La Liga goals last season with 48, won the publics’ choice award. Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar were all named on Monday’s shortlist for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or which will be awarded on January 11. While Ronaldo has triumphed over the last two seasons (in a total of three wins), Messi has previously claimed the coveted award four times while Neymar makes the shortlist for the first time. Neymar, 23, said it was “a great honor” to be named for the first time alongside his illustrious La Liga rivals._ AFP