Lionel Messi, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, gave the starting signal for the new election of the FIFA/FIFPro World XI on Friday. The Barcelona attacker was the first player to fill in his ballot paper at the Juan Gamper training complex. Many thousands of fellow players will follow his example in the coming weeks.
It has now become a FIFPro tradition for the previous year's top footballer to cast the first vote for the new edition of the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Messi was honoured as the sport's best performer during the FIFA World Player Gala, which was held in Zurich, in December 2009.
Being chosen by my fellow players means a great deal. They know better than anyone what you have to do for it.
The Argentinian was also asked to take the spotlight with ten of his colleagues, who were all chosen in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. It was a memorable occasion as it represented the first time in football history that the 11 best players on the planet had come together on the same stage.
After casting his vote, Messi said that it was the fact that the players themselves choose the World XI which made his selection extra special. "Being chosen by my fellow players means a great deal to me," he said.
"They know better than anyone what you have to do for it, and what you have to abstain from in order to reach the top and stay there. It is a great thing that FIFPro has done in giving the players the chance to vote themselves.’
FIFPro is organising the selection of the World XI for the sixth time this year. The world players’ union last week sent out approximately 55,000 ballot papers to professional footballers on every continent: from Australia to South Africa, from Finland to Costa Rica, and from Russia to Argentina. Following Messi’s example, the players will put together their favourite team consisting of one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.
Just like last year, the World XI will be announced in collaboration with FIFA at the FIFA Gala. The honour for 2010's top footballer will be known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or for the first time, after FIFA and France Football agreed to merge their prestigious awards. The Gala, which will be held on 10 January 2011 in Zurich, will see players included in the World XI receive their FIFA/FIFPro World XI Award.