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 Extends His Contract with FC Barcelona Through 2018

Lionel Messi isn’t planning to leave Spain anytime soon…

The 25-year-old Argentine soccer star, who won his record-breaking fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or, signed a contract extension Thursday that will keep him with FC Barcelona until June 30, 2018, the team announced on its website.

Lionel Messi

Messi, whose contract wasn’t due to expire until June 2016, decided to add two more years to his contract with the La Liga powerhouse..

Barça has enjoyed one of the best runs of success in team history, including two UEFA Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns, since Messi became a regular starter in the 2006-07 season.

Messi, meanwhile, has ridden his great chemistry with fellow FC Barcelona superstars like  Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez to award-winning results.

The deal had already been reached in mid-December but an official signing ceremony was held Thursday afternoon and attended by FC Barcelona’s president, Sandro Rosell.

Last month, Barça stars Xavi and defenseman Carles Puyol signed two-year and three-year contract extensions, respectively.

Messi enrolled in Barça’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut as a member of the club’s first team three years later in a friendly match against Portuguese-league club Porto.

Messi Wins Record Fourth Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi is officially in a league of his own…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol has become the first four-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, FIFA’s Player of the Year award, after breaking the world record for most goals in a year with 91 goals for Barcelona and Argentina.

Lionel Messi

Messi won for the fourth straight time, beating Real Madrid‘s Cristiano Ronaldo and his fellow Futbol Club Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta in voting announced Monday. His 91 goals topped Gerd Mueller‘s mark of 85 for Bayern Munich and Germany back in 1972.

Messi received 41.60 percent of the points in votes by national team coaches and captains plus selected media. Ronaldo got 23.68 percent and Iniesta 10.91 percent.

“To tell the truth, this is really unbelievable to get the fourth award. I am so nervous,” Messi said in Spanish, wearing a black tuxedo jacket and bow tie, both with a white polka-dot pattern in an unexpectedly flamboyant touch.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and captain Carlos Bocanegra both voted Messi first, as did Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy.

Zinedine Zidane of France and Ronaldo of Brazil were voted FIFA Player of the Year three times before the award merged in 2010 with France Football’s Golden Ball, given to the European player of the year. The Golden Ball, or Ballon d’Or, was won three times by Michel Platini of France and Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten of the Netherlands.

Vicente del Bosque was voted top men’s coach after leading Spain to its third straight title in a major tournament, the 2012 European Championship. Del Bosque got 34.51 percent to win over Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho (20.49), who won last year, and Pep Guardiola (12.91) who won in 2011 and retired from Barcelona last spring.

The three men’s Player of the Year candidates were on the World XI All-Star team chosen by the FIFPro group of players’ unions, comprising 50,000 members worldwide.

They selected a team composed entirely of players from Spanish clubs, with nine repeating their selection from one year ago.

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas was selected as goalkeeper, joined on defense by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo and by Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique. Iniesta was joined in midfield by Barcelona teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso. Messi led the attack with Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid‘s Radamel Falcao. Marcelo and Falcao replaced Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney from the 2011 team.

Messi Ends the Year with Record 91 Goals…

In what’s proved to be a banner year, Lionel Messi has extended his goal-scoring record…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambasador, who broke German great Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record for most goals in a year earlier this month, ended his record year this weekend with his 91st and final goal of 2012 in Fútbol Club Barcelona‘s 3-1 win at Valladolid, which the team dedicated to ailing coach Tito Vilanova.

Lionel Messi

Messi scored in the 59th minute by dribbling between a defender’s legs before making it 2-0 after Xavi Hernandez had opened the scoring two minutes before halftime.

Barcelona’s players wore T-shirts before the game with messages of support for Vilanova, who had throat surgery to remove a second tumor in two years on Thursday.

“This win is for Tito,” Barcelona defender Dani Alves said. “It’s a surprise and joy that he is home now. We are here to help him any way he can. Football is secondary now, he is fighting for his life.”

Barcelona remained perfect in nine away games and extended its record league start with its 16th win in 17 rounds. It opened up a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid and a 16-point gap over Real Madrid after it lost to Malaga Saturday.

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.

Iniesta Named Euro Cup 2012 MVP…

Andres Iniesta is simply the best… And, he’s got the medal to prove it.

The 28-year-old Spanish futbolista has been honored as best player of the European Championship—the Euro Cup 2012—after helping Spain become the first nation to successfully defend the continental crown.

Andres Iniesta

Iniesta started all six of Spain’s matches, including Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Italy in the championship game at the Olympic Stadium in which he recorded an assist.

“Iniesta deserved it. He symbolized the tournament — the creative, incisive runner, with and without the ball,” says Union of European Football Association (UEFA) technical director Andy Roxbuirgh. “We felt that he epitomized a lot of what we saw.”

Roxbuirgh says UEFA’s panel also considered Spain midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso and Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo for the award.

Messi Named World’s Best Player for Third Straight Year…

It’s official… Lionel Messi is the king of the soccer field.

The 24-year-old Argentinean soccer star, who plays for Futbol Club Barcelona has received the FIFA’s Ballon d’Or, making him the 2011 best player in the world. Messi beat out his Barça teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the honor.

Lionel-Messi

Widely regarded as the world’s best forward, Messi is the first player to win the honor three years in a row. The only other three-time winners are Ronaldo (1996-97, 2002) and Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000, 2003). The FIFA award was renamed last year when it merged with France Football’s Golden Ball.

“It’s a huge honor,” Messi said after accepting the trophy from the retired Brazilian great, Ronaldo.

Last year, Messi scored 55 goals for Barcelona, which won its third Champions League title in six seasons, and he scored four goals for Argentina‘s national team.

Messi received 48 percent of the points in votes cast by national team coaches and captains plus selected reporters. Cristiano Ronaldo finished second with 22 percent and Xavi had 9 percent to finish third.

“This one is very special because I want to share this with my friend and teammate Xavi. He deserves it,” Messi said.

Meanwhile, Xavi described his teammate as “one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.”

“He’s still young. I think he’s probably going to break all the records that exist in the sport,” Xavi said.