Messi wins first 'Best Player in Europe' award

MONACO - Lionel Messi won the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe award on Thursday, finishing ahead of Barcelona team mate Xavi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.

The vote, conducted by sports journalists representing each of UEFA's member associations, was organised with the idea of reviving the spirit of the former European Footballer of the Year award which is now known as the Ballon D'Or and organised by football's ruling body FIFA.

Messi, the overwhelming winner, collected his prize during the Champions League group stage draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

The Argentine international hit 53 goals last season, including 12 in the Champions League where he finished top scorer for the third successive season.

Messi's last European goal of the season was the second in Barcelona's 3-1 final win over Manchester United in May and he also helped his club to a third straight La Liga title.

The 24-year-old, already the World Footballer of the Year, said: "I keep all these awards at home and I still have some space for more... thanks to my team mates for helping me achieve this."

Barcelona meet Europa League winners Porto in the European Super Cup here on Friday.