Washington: Record four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi had barely picked up his award in Zurich on Monday before forecasting that there’s still much more to come.
The accolade sealed Messi’s status as the greatest player of his generation after he saw off Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta for the prize with a vote share of 41.60 per cent to 23.68 for Ronaldo and 10.91 for Iniesta.
There’s always space to grow up and be better. We never reach perfection. I will keep trying to be better and better and keep growing as a player
And the man nicknamed La Pulga (the flea), who moved ahead of three-times winners Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten after a year in which he scored a world record 91 goals, promptly looked forward to further glories.
“There’s always space to grow up and be better. We never reach perfection. I will keep trying to be better and better and keep growing as a player,” Messi says in an interview for the premiere edition of 60 Minutes Sports to air on US cable outlet Showtime on Wednesday.
Messi retained his typical modesty, however, in crediting his teammates for his win.
“Barca is not just Messi. Barca has very good players,” said the star from Rosario, who joined the Catalan club as a 13-year-old.
Messi tells 60 Minutes Sports that when he started out he did not realise quite what special talents he possesses.
“I never truly realised, to be honest. Back then, I couldn’t even dare to dream about all that has happened to me,” Messi said.
“It’s incredible to win a fourth in a row, amazing,” said Messi, of his Ballon d’Or success. “I want to share this with my Barcelona teammates and my Argentina teammates.”
Although Messi did not have an outstanding year in terms of Barcelona titles, missing out on the Champions League and La Liga, he enjoyed a resurgence of form with Argentina, scoring 12 goals including his first two international hat-tricks.
“I want to remember all the coaches I had in my career who all encourage me to become a coach,” he said before appealing to his fellow coaches and players for better behaviour.
“I think everyone in football, we all feel this fascination for the game, we want the same but we want to defend football, to take care of it and behave with the highest ethics and best personal conduct.”
Meanwhile, Messi’s Barcelona teammate Iniesta said his friend would surely win the Ballon d’Or again.
“Leo, if he continues in this vein, won’t let a fifth straight Ballon d’Or title slip. I congratulate him on a fourth which makes him unique.
“It’s not a question of sharing it out with others just because somebody has won a lot - you have to savour a job well done and that’s what we are doing today,” said Iniesta after the award in Zurich.
Iniesta, 28, joined Messi in saying such awards are essentially a reflection of the team in which the winner plays and “the fact that we (Barcelona) have so many representatives in the team (of the year) means we have fulfilled our mission.”
Barcelona had five players in the team of 2012 - as did Real Madrid, with Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao making up the numbers.
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque was named coach of the year for 2012, seeing off competition from Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
Meanwhile, US football veteran Abby Wambach, 32, won Fifa’s coveted Women’s Player of the Year award for the first time. The forward’s five goals in the London Olympics helped the United States win gold. Wambach is the first American to win the award in 10 years.