Lionel Messi accepts Marca's award for best player in La Liga
Lionel Messi is happy to have received Marca's award for the best player in La Liga in 2016-17 and wants to show everyone why he deserved it by leading Barcelona to victory at Real Madrid on Saturday.
The Argentina captain attended the awards gala on Monday afternoon at the Contemporary Art museum in Barcelona, where he was given a fifth career Alfredo Di Stefano Award after scoring 37 goals and providing nine assists during the 2016-17 La Liga season.
His Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, last year's recipient, has won the award four times but finished with a career-low 25 La Liga goals last season.
"I want to thank my teammates and I share this special award with them," Messi said during Monday's ceremony. "My main aim is not to win individual awards but rather trophies with my team and we hope we can compete for La Liga. If individual trophies come after that, all the better."
He also took home the Pichichi award for finishing as top scorer in La Liga.
Barcelona finished runners-up to Madrid last season but are top of the current standings, 11 points clear of their rivals, who have a game in hand.
Messi, who is La Liga's leading scorer this season with 14 goals, said he is looking forward to the Clasico on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu.
"It would be beautiful to end the year with a win and begin our Christmas holiday happy," he said. "It would be important to win this game, for what it means. It's special, it's at Real Madrid and a victory would see us take a big advantage with respect to them.
"There would still be a long way to go in the season but it would be good to have that advantage."
La Liga president Javier Tebas was in attendance and said during the event: "Thanks to all the players and clubs that compete with us and allow us to be the best league in the world."
For the second straight season, Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak was honoured with the Zamora trophy as the top goalkeeper.
The Slovenia international conceded 21 goals in 29 games to help Atletico finish third last season and said: "This is not mine, but rather a collective award as I could not do it without them."
Celta Vigo winger Iago Aspas received the Zarra award for the top Spanish scorer in La Liga with 19 goals.
The Spain international, who is hoping to compete next year at the World Cup, joked: "My next challenge is to steal the Pichichi from Leo Messi."
Marca also recognised Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta as the most valuable player for the Spain national team last season.
Iniesta spoke at the event about Saturday's game against Real and said: "To win there would take us another step closer to our aim. We are hopeful and eager to play a good game and take three points home. Our biggest challenge is to continue to lead the standings."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.