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Jan 8, 2013

Messi extends thanks to Tito and Abidal

Lionel Messi used a TV interview after winning the Ballon d'Or for the fourth time in succession to correct his mistake in forgetting to mention Tito Vilanova and Eric Abidal in his acceptance speech.

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• Man Utd blog: RVP a man out of time

After being presented with the trophy, Messi thanked a long list of people including his team-mates for club and country, those who voted for the award, and his partner and newborn baby.

A few minutes later, he told Catalan station TV3 that he had been so nervous on the podium he had neglected to mention the Barca coach and his team-mate, who are both currently recovering well from serious illness.

"Obviously I also wanted to share the prize with Tito and Abidal," Messi said. "What happened to them was a hard blow and to see them working again makes me very happy. That is the biggest prize: they are with us again. Now (Tito) needs to do the rehabilitation work but he will surely be well and back with us soon. When I came out to collect the prize I was nervous and the words did not come to me."

Messi was a clear winner of the 2012 prize - taking 41.6% of the votes ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in second (23.68%) and Barca's Andres Iniesta in third (10.91%). Asked for his thoughts on the possibility of securing a fifth consecutive award in 12 months' time, the Argentine said he was more concerned with winning this season's La Liga and the Champions League trophies with Barcelona.

"(I am) relaxed," he said "Now we must celebrate what we have won. I hope this season we can win the trophies that we could not win last season."

Questioned about the unusual polka-dot jacket he wore at the ceremony - which may have been inspired by a similarly stylish one worn by his countryman Diego Maradona in the 1980s - Messi gave nothing away.

"Last year I wore a different jacket and I did it again this year," he said.

Iniesta told TV3 that it was difficult to see any player other than Messi, who is still just 25, winning the award for the foreseeable future.

"If he keeps on like this, I do not think he will miss out on a fifth consecutive Ballon d'Or," Iniesta said. "He will achieve whatever he sets out to do."

The Euro 2012 winner said he was not disappointed to have finished behind his club-mate and Ronaldo in the voting.

"For me, just to be here is a joy," Iniesta said. "It is something to be very proud of. On a personal level, it has been a very good season, with exceptional moments."

Having five Barcelona players - Messi, Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique - named in an all La Liga FIFA/FIFPro World XI for 2012 showed how good the Catalan side were, Iniesta added.

"To have so many representatives of the same team says things are being done well," he said.

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