Platini praises 'tremendous' Messi
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UEFA president Michel Platini heralded Lionel Messi after the Barcelona star matched the Frenchman's record of having won three consecutive FIFA Ballon d'Or awards.

Messi, 24, was awarded the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or at the Gala in Zurich, which made him the first player to win the honour for three years running since Platini did so during his Juventus heyday between 1983 and 1985.

Messi's achievements with Barcelona, with whom he won five trophies last year, have prompted comparisons with some of the greatest names in the game's history, but Platini believes it is too early to start judging his career.

"Let him finish his career," said the former France captain. "Things go very quickly in football. You know, when Ronaldinho won his first Ballon d'Or [in 2005], I said: 'He's going to win a lot more, this guy.' And he didn't win any more after that. But Messi is the whole package."

He's the great player of this generation, like there were great players in other generations.
Michel Platini on Lionel Messi

Messi occasionally receives criticism over his inability to replicate his club form with Argentina. Platini, though, feels that time is on his side.

"At 24, he still has time to win it [the FIFA World Cup]," said Platini. "He's already a superb, fantastic player. You shouldn't try to place him in time. He's the great player of this generation, like there were great players in other generations.

"It's only in football that people compare generations. I've never heard someone compare [Italian singer] Adriano Celentano, the Beatles or Edith Piaf, but in football it happens.

"They used to say: '[Alfredo] Di Stefano is the greatest player of all time.' Then there was Pele, and [Johan] Cruyff. Messi is a tremendous player."