Lionel Messi was named the UEFA Best Player in Europe for the 2014-15 season for helping Barcelona to a Treble of trophies.
The Argentine star defeated the other finalists, his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the award a year ago, after a live vote of journalists.
Messi received the accolade after Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw was made, as the holders were placed against Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov.
The four-time FIFA world player of the year scored 58 goals in all competitions while leading Barcelona to titles in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Ronaldo scored 61 goals, but Real Madrid failed to win any major trophies.
Suarez, who scored the decisive second goal in the 3-1 final win over Juventus, reached the shortlist despite starting his season in late-October. The Uruguay forward served a FIFA ban for biting at the 2014 World Cup.
Messi’s contribution to Barca’s Champions League-winning campaign was recognised, with Messi having finished as joint top-scorer in the competition with 10 goals — alongside Ronaldo and a third Barca attacker in Neymar.
Asked for the secret behind his excellent 2014-15 campaign, the 28-year-old said he was only able to win individual awards because of the support given by his teammates and the wider Blaugrana family.
“This prize brings me a lot of joy,” Messi said. “It was an incredible year for us. I don’t know about secrets, but there is a united dressing room which was able to have an incredible year.
“It came out as we wanted, and we achieved our objectives. I want to thank all my teammates. We all represent something. If not for all of them, not Barca, nor I, would be here.”
Messi last won the award in 2011, the first year that Europe’s governing body awarded the honour. Since then Barca’s Andres Iniesta, Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery and Ronaldo have been the winners.
Earlier in the day, Messi’s solo goal against Bayern Munich in last year’s Champions League semifinal first leg was voted last year’s competition’s best goal by users on UEFA’s website, winning with 39 percent of the vote.
“I only found out about the best goal prize when I arrived here,” Messi said. “I did not know anything. Without my teammates I would not be here.”
Frankfurt forward Celia Sasic won the UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe award. Sasic, who led the Women’s Champions League in scoring last season and recently retired, beat Dzsenifer Marozsan and Amandine Henry to land the award.
Information from ESPN FC correspondent Dermot Corrigan was used in this report.
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