As the build up to Monday evening’s eagerly awaited Gala at the Zurich Kongresshaus continued, the nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010 and the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football shared their views in a press conference.

There was a relaxed atmosphere in the conference room as Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Xavi, Vicente del Bosque and Pep Guardiola spent the best part of an hour fielding questions from journalists from around the world. The only absentee from the gathering was Real Madrid’s Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho, who had been held up by a delayed flight.

Asked to name their high points of the year, it was not surprising to hear Del Bosque, Iniesta and Xavi put Spain’s triumph at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ at the top of the list. “Winning the World Cup was the high point,” said the Roja coach. “It wasn’t easy to come back from the Switzerland defeat, but it doesn’t get any better than going out and winning the Final.”

“There were a lot of unforgettable moments last year, and scoring in the Final made it even more special,” added Iniesta, Spain’s hero of the hour in Johannesburg. Meanwhile, Xavi said that while winning the FIFA World Cup was the highlight, Barcelona’s league-winning tally of 98 points was “amazing”.

Guardiola concurred, stating that the club’s championship win was a “great triumph”. For his part, the mercurial Messi also spoke of his numerous successes with Los Azulgranas. And though he did have some good memories of South Africa 2010, he acknowledged that he and his Argentina colleagues would have liked to have done more in the finals, adding that he would gladly swap the FIFA Ballon d’Or for the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Clean sweep for Barca
One of the focal points of the press conference was the fact that all three candidates for the player of the year award all run out for Barcelona. “It’s hard to believe that the three of us are here but it’s a fact,” said Iniesta. “We should enjoy it, but without forgetting all the people who’ve helped us come this far. A lot of people have worked towards this and we wouldn’t have achieved it without them.”

Considering himself “fortunate” to be appearing on the shortlist with his club-mates and to have the “very best players” around him, Xavi said their presence in Zurich showed how well the team functioned, and admitted he was anxious to find out who would be walking away with the award. “Even so, I’ll try to get the better of my nerves and just enjoy the occasion,” he added with a smile.

Guardiola then assessed the reasons why three of his players were up for the accolade: “They’re here because they are fantastic players. They’re part of a team that represents another group of people who were doing things the right way a long time before us. Over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve nurtured a philosophy, and these players are just the tip of the iceberg.”

A Real Madrid man surrounded by Blaugranas, Del Bosque diplomatically sidestepped any talk of footballing rivalries. “It’s a very happy day for all of us who believe in youth football because we’ve all had a hand in this process. We should all feel honoured, no matter which club we belong to.”

Asked if he would feel bad at winning the trophy ahead of club team-mates Iniesta and Xavi, Messi, the FIFA World Player for 2009, responded without a moment’s hesitation: “I’m just proud be here again this year. If I win, I’ll be happy and if I lose, I’ll be delighted for whoever takes the prize.”