Football

Blatter surprised Messi wins best player award

Fifa president Blatter says Argentina star doesn't deserve Golden Ball award

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has admitted that he was surprised to see Lionel Messi awarded the prize for the best player at the World Cup.

Messi picked up the prestigious Golden Ball accolade on Monday morning (Singapore time), shortly after Argentina had lost the World Cup final to Germany 1-0 in extra time.

The 27-year-old scored four goals in the group stages but, other than a strong first-half showing against Belgium, the Barcelona star failed to live up to his billing in the knockout phase.

The Argentina captain missed a good chance to win the final in the Maracana in the second half, dragging his shot wide when through on goal.

Blatter conceded that he was surprised to see Fifa's technical study group give the top prize to Messi.

"I was a little bit surprised when I saw Messi coming up to collect the best player of the competition," said Blatter, who handed out the awards in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro after the World Cup final.

Holland's Arjen Robben, Colombia striker James Rodriguez and World Cup winner Thomas Mueller were among the front-runners for the award.

Blatter believes that it was Messi's magic early on in the tournament, when he scored crucial goals against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria, that led the committee to pick Messi as their star man.

DECISIVE

"If you compare the beginning of the tournament and why finally the Argentina team got into the final, they were decisive. And I think it was a decision (based on that)," Blatter added.

Diego Maradona won the same accolade as Messi in 1986 but, unlike his compatriot, he left the tournament with a World Cup winner's medal around his neck.

The outspoken former Argentina skipper feels that Messi did not deserve to win the Golden Ball, calling it a marketing ploy.

He is not the only one who feels that way.

Former England international Stan Collymore called a it "a disgrace" while TNP analysts Dietmar Hamann, Ray Houghton and Paul Parker all felt that there were more deserving winners.

The 27-year-old himself has said the award meant nothing to him.

"In these moments, the prize doesn't interest me at all," Messi said a few minutes after Mario Goetze's 113th-minute winner which decided the final in Germany's favour.

While Messi didn't get the ending he wanted, Blatter said the football fraternity should be much happier with the show that was put on for them in Brazil.

"What makes the World Cup so very special this time is the quality of the football, the intensity of the games," said Blatter, adding Fifa gave the tournament 9.25 out of 10.

"This World Cup on the field of play was exceptional," he added.

"There was not one single match which didn't have this intensity," he said.

- Wire Services.

World Cup