Iniesta beats Messi & Ronaldo to UEFA award

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi were beaten to the UEFA Best Player in Europe award by Andres Iniesta last night.

To much surprise, the Barca midfielder beat the consensus two best players in the world, after a vote by European-based journalists picked the Spain star as the continent's most impressive performer.

The award judges the best player, regardless of nationality, playing their football in Europe, and a long shortlist, including names like Andrea Pirlo and Xavi Hernadez, was wittled down to just three - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta.

Few gave Iniesta any chance. Going up against the three-time Ballon d'Or winner and the world's most expensive player was a tall order, but Iniesta won recognition for his outstanding Euro 2012 displays.

He may not have comparable stats - nobody's season looks good alongside Messi's, not even Ronaldo - but Iniesta brings a beauty to the game that doesn't always translate to spreadsheets.

His work around the box is unpeccable, and his contributions over the last four years have gone a long way to explaining the success of the two best teams of that era - Barcelona and Spain.

The 'pale knight', as he is affectionately known at the Nou Camp, has been central to the two most successful sides of the last half a decade. He's won everything there is to win on a collective level, but playing in the age of Messi and Ronaldo, individual success has proved elusive.

So it's difficult to begrudge him a little personal glory. And it's hard to feel sorry for Lionel Messi - his trophy cabinet already creaks under the weight of silver.

The Barca star congratulated his teammate after the presentation. On his official Facebook page Messi said: "It makes me happy that UEFA has given Andres Iniesta the trophy, he deserves it. Many congratulations, Andres!"

As for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Best Player in Europe award is small fry for the Portuguese star. His eyes are fixed firmly on the big prize - the FIFA Ballon d'Or. The Best Player of Europe award would have been nice, but would have been merely a warm-up, a dress rehearsal for the main event.

That's because everybody knows Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best players in the world. They will, rightly, contest the FIFA Ballon d'Or in November.

But this award was about more than statistics, it was about achievements. Iniesta enjoyed a good season, but not his best, for Barcelona last year. But his performances with Spain helped lead his country into unprecedented territory - two European Championships and a World Cup.

The limelight rarely finds itself shining on the diminutive Spaniard, but that seems to suit him.

On Thursday, that changed, and not before time.

European News
Cristiano Ronaldo

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