Messi dismisses talk of Barcelona Ballon d''Or ift

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Barcelona, Jan 14 (AFP) Argentine star Lionel Messidismissed talk that defeating his Barcelona teammates AndresIniesta and Xavi in the race for the Ballon d''Or had strainedhis relationship with the Spanish pair.

"I don''t care what people say. I have the respect and therecognition of my team mates. All my colleagues congratulatedme and were happy for me and that is what is the mostimportant for me," he told a news conference.

"I am aware that without my teammates I could not winthese prizes. We know what our relationship is and how we getalong. The relationship is the same. I am fine with Andres andwith Xavi. I have a good relationship with both."

Messi was selected ahead of his two Barcelona teammatesat a ceremony in Switzerland on Monday.

It was the second straight year that he collected theprize.

The Argentinian forward had been expected to lose out toeither one of the two, who won the World Cup with Spain inJuly, after he endured a modest run at the tournament where hefailed to score.

Messi, Iniesta and Xavi received a standing ovation fromBarcelona fans on Wednesday when they took to the field beforethe start of their side''s 5-0 Spanish Cup victory at home oversecond division leaders Betis.

The Argentine forward hit a hat-trick in what was hisfirst game since winning the Ballon d''Or.

Set up in 1956 by France Football magazine the Ballond''Or merged with FIFA''s world player of the year award for thefirst time.

The voting committee, up to now made up of onlyjournalists, now includes all the managers and captains of the208 national sides affiliated to FIFA.

Messi, 23, scored an astonishing 60 goals for club andcountry in 2010 and is regarded by many as the most giftedplayer of his generation. (AFP) AH

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