Football

Messi hails team-mates

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Lionel Messi hailed his Ballon d'Or success as a triumph for Barcelona and their youth system after the Catalan club dominated the voting for this year's award.

Messi beat last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid into second place in the poll for Europe's footballer of the year, organised by France Football magazine. The 22-year-old's Barca team-mate Xavi finished third in the voting while his midfield partner Andres Iniesta was fourth, and striker Samuel Eto'o, who was also a key part of the Barca team that won an unprecedented treble last season before moving to Inter Milan this summer, was fifth.

Messi said: "To have the recognition of being the best player in the world is something special. It makes me happy and proud, but neither was I obsessed with the award, I knew that it could happen and I'm not going to stop now, I have the same desire to do things well."

He added: "It's also right that they recognised the efforts of Xavi, Andres and also Samuel. It's well-deserved that there are so many players from Barca up there.

"It would have been more difficult to achieve it without Iniesta and without Xavi. The prize is for all the group, to the youth system of Barcelona because we have achieved everything with a lot of home-grown players. It's important for the club. I would've voted for any of my team-mates.

"Anyone in our changing room deserved to win it," added Messi, who is the sixth Barca player to take the award but the first for four years - since Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola echoed his playmaker's thoughts after seeing four of his side that won the Champions League, Primera Division and Copa del Rey titles last season finishing in the top five, with Thierry Henry and Yaya Toure also being voted into the top 30.

Guardiola said: "It's a good sign. It's impossible to win these prizes if the team isn't winning. It's an individual prize because the player deserves it, but it is also one for the club, for so many unknown people."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
European News
Football
UEFA Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo
Thierry Henry
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