Messi Earns Third Consecutive Golden Boot Award…

Lionel Messi is getting the boot yet again…

The 26-year-old Argentine soccer star, currently sidelined by persistent thigh muscle issues, has picked up his third European Golden Boot award.

Lionel Messi

Messi, who hopes to return for Barcelona’s first game of 2014, was presented with the award by former Blaugrana striker — and 1990 Golden Boot winner — Hristo Stoichkov at a ceremony in central Barcelona on Wednesday.

Asked by reporters at the event if he might be back to play at home on January 5 — Barca’s first game after the winter break — Messi said: “I hope so.

“The truth is I have not put a date on the return. If all goes well it will be that date, but we will see what happens. I will be back when it is supposed to happen.”

Messi, who will spend part of his recovery back at home in Argentina, said nobody wanted to rush things as the most important thing was to put an end to a frustrating last six months, during which he has suffered five similar thigh and hamstring problems.

“My objective is to return in good shape, to strengthen the body so that, God willing, I can play without injuries,” he said. “I am improving bit by bit — it does not hurt any more. I am starting to do things.”

Messi scored 46 goals in the 2012-13 season to take the European Golden Boot, which he also claimed in 2009-10, when he scored 34 goals, and in 2011-12, when he scored 50 goals.

He dedicated his latest personal trophy to teammates including Xavi Hernandez, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Jose Pinto, who were all present at the ceremony.

“It was a lot of goals, and I would not have scored them without my teammates,” he said. “Without them I would not have won this Golden Boot, nor the others. I appreciate them being here.”

Messi did not speak about the controversy surrounding the extension of this year’s Ballon d’Or voting, which some have suggested will favor Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of winning the award.

Barca president Sandro Rosell, though, was on hand to push his club’s player’s chances.

“If people vote on what they have seen on the pitch this year, and do not put on political or media pressure, then Messi should win,” Rosell said in Mundo Deportivo. “I would vote first for Leo, second for Leo and third for Leo. Fourth, fifth and sixth would be Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Sergio] Busquets.”

Soccer Star Xavi Weds Fiancee Nuria Cunillera

Xavi Hernandez is officially off the market…

The 33-year-old Spanish soccer star, a midfielder for Futbol Club Barcelona, has married his fiancée Nuria Cunillera.

Xavi Hernandez

The couple tied the knot in a ceremony at the Marimurtra Botanical Garden in the Spanish city of Blanes on Saturday night before some 180 invited guests, including most of the soccer team.

Following the ceremony, Hernandez and his new wife held the reception at the neighboring building “El Convent,” a 16th century structure.

The Barça star’s nuptials attracted about 100 curious members of the public who cheered Hernandez when he arrived at the botanical garden, which offers several magnificent views of the Costa Brava.

Among the guests at the ceremony were Barça midfielder Sergio Busquets, former players Santi Ezquerro, Oleguer Presas, Gabri Garcia and Albert Jorquera, as well as former Athletic Bilbao player Joseba Etxeberria.

The last guests to arrive, accompanied by their spouses or girlfriends, were Cesc Fabregas, Leo Messi, Javier Mascherano, Pedro Rodriguez, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta, who all showed up together in one vehicle and sparked a frenzy among fans who were waiting at the door.

Cunillera was the last to arrive riding in an antique Bentley.

The newly married couple are said to be planning a honeymoon in the Seychelles this summer.

Messi Could Pick Up a Fourth FIFA Ballon d’Or Award

Lionel Messi has the chance to make soccer history…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol star, who just claimed his second Golden Boot award, is among the 23 players in the running for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or award.

Lionel Messi

Should he come out on top, Messi, who made history by claiming the award the last three years in a row, would become the only player to claim the award four times.

But Messi will face stiff competition from several noted players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernandez, this year’s runners-up for the world’s best player award.

Here’s a look at the nominees:

Real Madrid Players:
Cristiano Ronaldo
Iker Casillas
Mesut Ozil
Karim Benzema
Sergio Ramos
Xabi Alonso

Barcelona Players:
Lionel Messi
Andres Iniesta
Sergio Busquets
Gerard Pique
Xavi Hernandez

Atletico Madrid Player:
Radamel Falcao

Manchester City Players:
Mario Balotelli
Sergio Aguero
Yaya Toure

Manchester United Players:
Wayne Rooney
Robin van Persie

Juventus Players:
Andrea Pirlo
Gianluigi Buffon

Shanghai Shenhua Player:
Didier Drogba

PSG Player:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Bayern Munich Player:
Manuel Neuer

Santos Player:
Neymar

The final three candidates will be revealed on November 29 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Ballon d’Or ceremony will take place in Zurich on January 7, 2013, when the player who receives the most votes from coaches and captains of international teams, as well as reporters, will be announced.