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Xavi Downplays Messi's Ballon d'Or Chances

Barcelonaand Spain star Xavi Hernandez admits that for the first time in nearly half a decade, Lionel Messi is unlikely to win the Ballon d’Or.

Xavi has watched Messi develop into a superstar during his career at the Camp Nou, and was hardly surprised when the little Argentine annexed football’s most important individual prize four times in a row.

He still believes that La Pulga Atomica “the best player in the world…..no doubt”.

But Xavi also says that Messi’s injury ravaged season thus far could count against him, when the winner of the Ballon d’Or is revealed.

Xavi himself is part of the 23-man shortlist of nominees for the prize, but is unlikely to feature when it is cut to five in December.

Messi should appear, along with favourite Franck Ribery and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and Sweden ace Zlatan Ibrahimovic could round off a stellar top-five, but even though he believes Messi is the best, Xavi thinks the gong could be sounding for another player for once.

“[Messi] has already won four in a row,” Xavi told Sport, when asked if his team-mate will win the Ballon d’Or again.

“Maybe those who vote will think about that.

"Maybe he deserves another. If we look at who is the best player in the world, it is Messi, no doubt.

“Now, if we talk about the best player in 2013, then I will admit there is some debate.

“Winning four in a row might damage him when it comes to the voting.”

With the voting over, all that remains is for Fifa to drag it out until the winner is announced.

In South Africa with the his national team for a friendly, Spanish coach and last year’s winner, Vicente Del Bosque, was pushed on who he voted for.

For coach of the year, Del Bosque said: “I voted for [ex-Bayern Munich manager Jupp] Heynckes, for Rafa Benitez because he is Spanish and the Europa League champion, and [Brazil boss ‘Big Phil’] Scolari, who won the Confederations Cup. I base it on trophies, which is the most objective.”

He was a little more secretive regarding his vote for the best player of, however.

“I voted for the two Spanish players [Xavi and Andres Iniesta], and will leave the third as incognito,” he said.

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