Argentina’s LIONEL MESSI collected a record-breaking fourth consecutive title of best player in the world when he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or, while U.S. player ABBY WAMBACH claimed her first FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala held at the Zürich, Switzerland Kongresshaus Monday evening. Spanish national team coach VICENTE DEL BOSQUE and Sweden women’s national team coach PIA SUNDHAGE were the winners of the FIFA World Coach of the Year awards for men’s and women’s football. Messi received 41.6% of the votes, ahead of CRISTIANO RONALDO (23.7%) and ANDRES INIESTA (10.9%). Wambach collected 20.7% of the votes, ahead of Brazil’s MARTA and U.S. player ALEX MORGAN, who received 13.5% and 10.9%, respectively. World players’ union FIFPro invited 50,000 professional players from all over the world to select their best team of '12, the FIFA FIFPro World XI. The honors went to the following all-star squad: IKER CASILLAS (Spain) in goal; DANI ALVES (Brazil), MARCELO (Brazil), GERARD PIQUE (Spain) and SERGIO RAMOS (Spain) on defense; XABI ALONSO (Spain), ANDRES INIESTA (Spain) and XAVI HERNANDEZ (Spain) in midfield; and CRISTIANO RONALDO (Portugal), RADAMEL FALCAO (Colombia) and LIONEL MESSI (Argentina) at forward (FIFA).
PRAISE FROM THE PRESS: In Madrid, Ramiro Aldunate wrote under the headline "Messi, the best in history" that Messi won his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or, "which does not leave any doubt over his dominance in world football." It appears that "the only person that can stop Messi is himself." He has now surpassed football greats JOHAN CRUYFF, MARCO VAN BASTEN and MICHEL PLATINI, who all had three Ballon d'Or awards to their names (MARCA, 1/7). EUROSPORT wrote Messi "broke GERD MÜLLER's 40-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year." Messi scored 91 goals in '12, which is six more than Müller did in '72. Former FC Barcelona coach PEP GUARDIOLA said, "He doesn't only score a lot of goals, but many outstanding goals. Each new one is more impressive than the previous one. I feel sorry for those who want to dethrone him -- it is impossible" (EUROSPORT, 1/7).
Austrian second-division football club SCR Altach "has appointed DAMIR CANADI as head coach." Canadi "replaces RAINER SCHARINGER, who was released on Friday." The 42-year-old "signed a contract until summer '14" (KURIER, 1/7). ... Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact has appointed former Swiss Super League coach MARCO SCHÄLLIBAUM to replace JESSE MARSCH as head coach. Schällibaum was most recently serving as a FIFA-appointed coaching instructor in Qatar, Mongolia and South Korea (Impact).
SHINE ON: Reebok Senior VP/Sports & Entertainment Marketing TOM SHINE quietly left the company late last month to join SIMON FULLER’s XIX Entertainment in a senior position. Shine’s title was still undetermined at press time, but he will report directly to Fuller (Terry Lefton, SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/7 issue).
Serie A club Fiorentina "has signed Italian national team player GIUSEPPE ROSSI to a three-year deal." Spanish second division team FC Villareal "received an estimated €16M ($21.1M) for Rossi, who has not played a game since Oct. '11 due a severe knee injury" (SID, 1/7). ... The Chinese women's badminton duo, YU YANG and WANG XIAOLI, who were kicked out of the London Olympics "for playing to lose," won a sports honor medal from China's General Administration of Sports. Coach LI YONGBO was among 104 coaches to win an award for Chinese world champions (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 1/7). ... Brazilian football legend PELE will be honored with a bronze statue in the new Maracanã stadium. The statue will be inaugurated when the stadium is scheduled to open on Feb. 28 (FOLHA DE S. PAULO, 1/7). ... ManU defender RIO FERDINAND is "planning for a career after football as the first black JAMES BOND." Ferdinand is "dreaming of a move to Hollywood" after his football career is over and "sees himself as an all-action hero" (DAILY MAIL, 1/6). ... Former Scotland captain MIKE BLAIR has retired from int'l rugby at age 31. Scotland's most-capped scrum-half has "represented his country on 85 occasions, 14 of them as captain" (Scotland DAILY RECORD, 1/7).
TRYING A NEW TRADE: Brazilian football great RONALDO, owner of marketing agency 9ine, will go to London to "learn more regarding advertising and evolve in his new career." He will intern with marketing agency WPP, where he will learn directly from CEO MARTIN SORRELL. Ronaldo said, "Learning from Martin will be perfect. I am not going to leave him alone for a minute. I am going to ask him questions all day long." Ronaldo's 9ine agency represents athletes such as Santos striker NEYMAR, UFC fighter ANDERSON SILVA, PSG midfielder LUCAS and Atéltico Madrid striker FALCAO (UOL, 1/7). Sorrell "declined to comment on the nature of the placement" but said that he had already been working closely with Ronaldo in Latin America and on the World Cup and the Olympics, which Brazil will host in '14 and '16. Ronaldo added, "My biggest difficulty so far is with strategic planning, which is what marketing and advertising really consist of. It’s for that reason that I’ve been studying so much -- not so much in classes, but with my team here" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/7).
Barcelona's ANDRES INIESTA congratulating Messi on his fourth Ballon d'Or: "Muchas felicidades Leo! Ha sido un placer volver a estar aquí, todo un orgullo!" ("Congratulations Leo! It has been a pleasure coming back here, lots of pride!")
World Football Insider Editor MARK BISSON: "Social media crucial part of 2020 #Olympics bid race as intl promo starts. On Twitter, Tokyo 8611 followers, Istanbul (2245), Madrid (833)"
Euro Sport & Event Management Managing Dir CHRISTIAN MACHOWSKI: "Ballon D'or cancelled, it's Ballon La Liga instead."
BBC pundit ROBBIE SAVAGE: "Messi should be in GQ as worlds worst dressed footballer after that jacket lol"
ManU's RIO FERDINAND: Congrats to Messi! Wow,4 yrs in a row!! Messi has added something else to his list of 'the only person to....'