Argentine star Lionel Messi on Thursday dismissed talk that defeating his Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi in the race for the FIFA Ballon d'Or had strained his relationship with the Spanish pair.
"I don't care what people say. I have the respect and the recognition of my team mates. All my colleagues congratulated me and were happy for me and that is what is the most important for me," he told a news conference. "I am aware that without my teammates I could not win these prizes. We know what our relationship is and how we get along. The relationship is the same. I am fine with Andres and with Xavi. I have a good relationship with both."
Messi was selected ahead of his two Barcelona teammates at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday. It was the second straight year that he collected the prize. The Argentinian forward had been expected to lose out to either one of the two, who won the FIFA World Cup™ with Spain in July, after he endured a modest run at the tournament where he failed to score.
Messi, Iniesta and Xavi received a standing ovation from Barcelona fans on Wednesday when they took to the field before the start of their side's 5-0 Spanish Cup victory at home over second division leaders Betis. The Argentine forward hit a hat-trick in what was his first game since winning the Ballon d'Or.
Set up in 1956 by France Football magazine the Ballon d'Or merged with FIFA's world player of the year award for the first time. The voting committee, up to now made up of only journalists, now includes all the managers and captains of the 208 national sides affiliated to FIFA.
Messi, 23, scored an astonishing 60 goals for club and country in 2010 and is regarded by many as the most gifted player of his generation