Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that he would not have voted for Lionel Messi for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or award, saying that Cristiano Ronaldo or Andres Iniesta would have been far more deserving of the prize.
The Barcelona forward collected his fourth consecutive crown at last month's awards ceremony in Zurich, sweeping away competition from his fellow nominees, after a stand-out 12 months that saw Messi break Gerd Muller's goalscoring record, netting 91 times in a calendar year.
But despite his impressive individual form, the fact that the Argentine's only trophy success was the Copa del Rey last season, meant that Ronaldo or Iniesta should have been rewarded for helping their club and country win major silverware in 2012.
Ronaldo fired Real Madrid to the Primera Division title, while Iniesta was named player of the tournament, as Spain retained their European Championship crown in Poland and Ukraine last summer.
Wenger readily admits that Messi is the best player on the planet, but despite his record-breaking year, said that he would not have got his 2012 vote.
"No, not this year," the Gunners boss told the Arsenal Magazine. "For me Messi is certainly the best player I have ever seen in the game, but I believe that this year he has really been rewarded for what he did individually, rather than what he won for his team.
"For once he has not been in a team that won absolutely everything. He did not win the Champions League, he did not win the Spanish league and he didn't win anything with his country, but individually it's true he had an exceptional year, scoring 91 goals.
"I believe he has been rewarded for that, but for me I'm more a fan of collective sport, so I feel people like [Iker] Casillas, [Cristiano] Ronaldo – who won the championship – and especially [Andres] Iniesta deserved it more.
"He's always number two or three, but he won the European Championship with Spain – he could have deserved it this year."
Having said that, Wenger made clear his admiration for Messi, who, at 25 will continue to be a world-beater for many more years to come.
"I do not dispute at all what an exceptional player he is – as people say, he's from a different planet," the Frenchman added.
"He's certainly the best player in the world, the best I've ever seen, and to do it four years in a row is exceptional. He is only 25 so he promises to set a long record that will certainly never be beaten."