Lionel Messi Wins Ballon d'Or 2009

Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina has won the Ballon d'Or 2009 award, making him the first player from his country to be crowned European Footballer of the Year. The 22-year-old has now occupied all of the top three places, having debuted in third in 2007 before rising to second last year. Furthermore, Messi has won by the greatest margin ever recorded in the history of this venerable competition. Out of a possible 480 points, Lionel scored 473 - a new record, and far ahead of the man in second place, namely last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese managed 233 points. In winning the prize, awarded by France Football following voting by a panel of journalists from across the world, Messi becomes the youngest Ballon d'Or winner since Michael Owen's win as a 21-year-old in 2001. In a year that Barcelona won an historic treble of the Liga, the Champions League, and the Copa del Rey, it seemed inconceivable that a player without the Blaugrana shirt would receive the award. Barca midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi were also shortlised, but Messi was considered favourite by virtually every observer. As such it was no surprise when he was confirmed as the winner late on Monday evening. Teammate Xavi, meanwhile, is said to have ended up in third place. From an initial shortlist of thirty, ten players were announced last week as the finalists, with Messi's name looming large among those of the likes of Dider Drogba and Wayne Rooney. However, it was the former Newell's Old Boys youth who prevailed in the end.