Lionel Messi wins the 2012 Ballon d’Or

‘He has earned a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen for services to the game. He guided Japan to the 2011 Womens’s World Cup.

The good and the great: Wayne Rooney receives the FIFA/FIFPro World XI award from Brazilian legend PeleThe good and the great: Wayne Rooney receives the FIFA/FIFPro World XI award from Brazilian legend Pele

He said: ‘It is an honour for me in the twilight of my life and very, very much appreciated.

Top man: Barcelona's Pep Guardiola wins the FIFA World Coach of the Year awardTop man: Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola wins the FIFA World Coach of the Year award

Barcelona’s Guardiola was named the world’s best coach in 2011 after guiding Barcelona to five trophies including the Champions League, Spanish and Club World Cup.

Earlier in the evening, Ferguson and Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola were awarded at the ceremony.

Special praise: Sir Alex Ferguson was given the FIFA presidential award for services to football by Sepp BlatterSpecial praise: Sir Alex Ferguson was given the FIFA presidential award for services to football by Sepp Blatter

Star appeal: Franz Beckenbauer, Blatter, Shakira and Ferguson pose for the camerasStar appeal: Franz Beckenbauer, Blatter, Shakira and Ferguson pose for the cameras

Ferguson himself praised Manchester United for sharing his vision of the game.

‘They retain the courage to play, the courage to try and win. Lionel Messi could play in the 1950s and the present day, as could Di Stefano, Pele, Maradona, Cruyff because they are all great players.

Past and present: Messi is congratulated by former winners Michel Platini and RonaldoPast and present: Messi is congratulated by former winners Michel Platini and Ronaldo

Ferguson said Messi could now be judged alongside the greats of world football through the ages, even though he is still only 24.

Happy boy: Messi poses with his award and Colombian singer ShakiraHappy boy: Messi poses with his award and Colombian singer Shakira

‘His first major success came at Aberdeen in 1983 but what is absolutely extraordinary is that in a world in which coaches are expected to produce instant results or be changed, his longevity is a shining example of what can be achieved through stability, continuity, investment in development and especially in trust and confidence in the personality himself.

‘Critics have always questioned whether players like Pele from the 50s could play today,’ said Ferguson.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Xavi both paid tribute to Messi.. This exceptional personality in football has been managing the same club for 25 years – can you imagine that today?”

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Guardiola won the FIFA honour ahead of Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho and Ferguson.

‘He’s going to be one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.’

‘Lionel Messi without question fits into that category.’

Rooney said: ‘It was a great year and the highlight was winning the Premier League for the 19th time, which was a great moment for the club.’

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic were both included in the world XI dominated by Spain-based players.

The FIFPro World XI was: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd).

Santos FC’s Brazilian forward Neymar won the FIFA Puskas award for the best goal of the year.

Ferguson was given the FIFA presidential award for services to football, the 70-year-old Scot was presented with the award by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Earlier at FIFA’s annual awards ceremony, Norio Sasaki won the award for best coach of a women’s team. You don’t always win in football – sometimes you lose but we always try to win.’

Boy from Brazil: Neymar picks up the FIFA Puskas award for best goal (below)Boy from Brazil: Neymar picks up the FIFA Puskas award for best goal (below)

‘I have been a very, very lucky manager to have had so many good players who have shared my vision and passion, and that’s what makes Manchester United such a special club.

Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Xavi supported Ferguson’s view, saying: ‘He’s still young, only 24, and I think he’s going to break all the records that exist in this sport.

BySportsmail Reporter

Updated: 08:28 GMT, 10 January 2012

Barcelona’s 24-year-old Argentina striker beat team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of the world’s best player.

Lionel Messi was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or for the third successive year.

Blatter said: ‘Elite football is all about results and winning and there is no one better at it than him.

Messi, man of the match in the Champions League final in 2011, also won the Primera Division, Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup last year.

Top prize: Argentina's Lionel Messi won the Ballon D'Or for the third year in a rowTop prize: Argentina’s Lionel Messi won the Ballon D’Or for the third year in a row

‘The answer to that is great players would play in any generation

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