Messi voted top striker in La Liga
BARCELONA star Lionel Messi, the favourite to win Fifa's prestigious Ballon d'Or title, was on Monday voted the top striker in the Spanish league last season ahead of Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is the sixth time that the Argentinian has won the title in seven editions of the trophy given by the Spanish football league, with the prize presented during a gala ceremony in Barcelona on Monday night.
Messi, who scored 43 goals and was the catalyst for Barcelona's run to three titles last season - the Champions League, Primera Liga and the Spanish Cup - was selected following a computer analysis of the players' statistics in the championship.
"I'm proud to receive this award ahead of so many important players in La Liga," said Messi, 28.
"This award in particular I want to dedicate to my son Thiago (aged 3) even if he still doesn't understand very well. Every time I leave the house, he gets angry and asks me, 'Papa, are you going again to score goals?' This award is for him."
Messi also won the vote for the best striker following a poll of the captains of each of Spain's top-flight sides.
Barcelona's Claudio Bravo was voted the best goalkeeper and Luis Enrique top coach while Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez were named best defender and midfielder respectively.
Valencia's Algerian midfielder Sofiane Feghouli was voted the top African player and Barcelona's Brazilian striker Neymar, the best player from the American continent.
Real Madrid's Portuguese star Ronaldo, who scored the most La Liga goals last season with 48, won the public's choice award.
Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar were all named on Monday's shortlist for Fifa's Ballon d'Or which will be awarded on Jan 11 next year.
While Ronaldo has triumphed over the last two seasons (in a total of three wins), Messi has previously claimed the coveted award four times while Neymar makes the shortlist for the first time.
Neymar, 23, said it was "a great honour" to be named for the first time alongside his illustrious La Liga rivals.
The Brazilian has reached new heights at Barca this season, his third with the Spanish and European champions. He is the top scorer in La Liga this term with 12 goals in 11 appearances, with two more in five Champions League outings, and was particularly impressive during Messi's recent two-month absence with a knee injury.
The pair form a formidable attacking trident with South American compatriot Luis Suarez and they set a Spanish record of 122 goals in all competitions in 2014-15 as Barca romped to the treble.
"Ney has the limit he wants," Barca and Brazil teammate Dani Alves, 32, who refers to Neymar as his "younger brother", said in an interview with Reuters Television on Monday.
"If he doesn't want a limit, then he won't have one because his characteristics and his qualities are favourable for this," added the fullback.
"In the end, he's one of those players, like Leo, like Luis, who are singled out as unique, who will mark a decade or an era in football, like other big names.
"For this reason, what he wants to achieve he will achieve. And if it's with us, so much better because if he's in our team, that's a sign that we will achieve things and compete a lot and we will have the opportunity to achieve things."
Alves was speaking to Reuters as part of a Barca media day looking ahead to the Club World Cup in Japan starting in two weeks.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS