Barcelona's Lionel Messi wins his first La Liga Player of the Month award
Lionel Messi has been named La Liga's Player of the Month for January -- surprisingly the first time the Barcelona star has received the award.
Messi, 28, was recognised after an opening month to 2016 in which he scored six times in five league games, including key goals at Malaga and at home to Atletico Madrid as Barca took control of the title race.
Seventeen different players had previously been recognised since the official award was launched in September 2013 -- but never before the Argentina captain.
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin are among the players to have won it twice, while other winners have included Eibar attacker Borja Baston, ex-Rayo Vallecano forward Alberto Bueno and Sevilla winger Vitolo.
Messi's wait has now ended, however, with the announcement revealed in an official La Liga statement.
"FC Barcelona forward Lionel Andres Messi has been named Liga BBVA Player of the Month for January, after some imperious performances throughout the first month of the year," the statement read.
"Messi's remarkably consistent form is a constant reminder of exactly why he is such a key figure in Luis Enrique's side. The Argentine constitutes one part of one of the most feared attacking trios in Liga BBVA history alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez: the MSN.
"Barcelona's start to the calendar year was almost flawless, with four wins and a draw, in which the 28-year-old scored six times, including a hat trick against Granada CF as well as important strikes against Atletico Madrid, Athletic Club and Malaga."
La Liga's Player of the Month award is voted for by the writers at the league's official website.