It was revealed at the ceremony in Zurich that the Argentina international received 48% of the votes, compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 22% and Xavi’s 10%.
The victory for the South American means he has won the world player of the year award three times in a row, and equals Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten, who also received the accolade on three separate occasions.
Xavi heaped praise on his Barcelona team-mate, stating that he was a worthy winner of the award.
“He’s still young, only 24, and I think he’s going to break all the records that exist in this sport,” the Spain midfielder told reporters.
“He’s going to be one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.”
Meanwhile Pep Guardiola made it a double success for the Catalan side by picking up the Manager of the Year award, beating Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson to the prize.
Ferguson did however pick up the Fifa President’s Award for services in the game, and was praised by Sepp Blatter at the event.
Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic were included in a world XI however, which was selected as follows:
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).
Other winners in Switzerland were Japan’s women’s captain Homare Sawa who won the women’s player award; Japan manager Norio Sasaki was given the coach of the year for women’s football accolade; the Japanese FA were awarded the FIFA fair play award and Brazil striker Neymar won the FIFA Puskas award for the best goal of 2011.
By Gareth McKnight