Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has suggested Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is 'from a different planet' as he assesses his sublime talents, but does not believe he was a worthy winner of the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year prize.
Wenger felt the full force of Messi's genius when the Barcelona maestro blasted four goals past Arsenal in a Champions League quarter-final back in 2010, but he is convinced there were more worthy winners of the prize in a year when Barcelona failed to live up to their own extraordinary standards.
When asked whether Messi would have got his vote in the FIFA poll, Wenger was unequivocal in his answer. "No, not this year," the Frenchman told the Arsenal website.
"Messi is from a different planet. He's certainly the best player in the world, the best I've ever seen, but I believe that this year he has really been rewarded for what he did individually, rather than what he won for his team.
"For once he has not been in a team that won absolutely everything. He did not win the Champions League, he did not win the Spanish league and he didn't win anything with his country, but individually it's true he had an exceptional year, scoring 91 goals.
"I believe he has been rewarded for that, but for me I'm more a fan of collective sport, so I feel people like Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo – who won the Spanish championship – and especially Andres Iniesta deserved it more. Iniesta is always number two or three, but he won the European Championship with Spain last year and he could have deserved it this year.
"I am not a big fan of individual awards in football to start with, but when it happens I think it should be the consequence of a special team achievement as well. If you have been the best player in a team that did something special, then yes, you should win it. That's why my vote would have been for Iniesta."
Wenger went on to admit he has sympathy with Real Madrid striker Ronaldo, who seems destined to remain in Messi's imposing shadow despite his own glorious achievements in what has been a glittering career.
"You feel for Ronaldo because sometimes in life, you need to be lucky that a better guy than you wasn't born during the same time," he added.
"You could say that the guy who arrives today behind Usain Bolt is still very quick, and still a fantastic athlete, and could beat everyone else in the world, but it's bad luck that he is around at the same time as Usain Bolt.
"It's the same now for Ronaldo, who is an absolutely fantastic player, but always seems to be just behind Messi in the awards. So I feel for them because I know what it means to them, at that level, to be known as the best in the world."