A big week in Spanish and World Football welcomed Spanish Football fans back to the fray after the Christmas break. Curiously, nothing unexpected happened.
On the global stage, Barcelona FC striker, Lionel Messi, won his fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d'Or (http://bit.ly/f6BkUi). The coveted prize is awarded to the best player in the world as chosen by the world's national team captains and coaches from the 209 FIFA Member Associations, and selected football journalists from around the world. The only restriction is that players are not allowed to vote for themselves.
The voters were asked to name their top three players from a shortlist selected by FIFA and France Football with the first player chosen receiving five points, the second three and the third one. Write-ins were also allowed. Messi won the 2012 trophy clearly, garnering 42% of the points, Cristiano Ronaldo came in second with 23%, and Andres Iniesta third with 11%.
On the South American stage, Brazilian striker Neymar won the 2012 "King of Football of the Americas" prize, given yearly by Uruguayan newspaper El Pais, to the best player of the Americas as voted by football journalists of the region. Santos' Neymar was chosen by 300 journalists while Corinthians’ Peruvian striker, Paolo Guerrero, came in second place with 50 votes and PSG’s Brazilian attacking midfielder, Lucas Moura, garnered 21 votes for his time playing at Sao Paulo in 2012.
In La Liga's 18th week, Jose Mourinho again benched Iker Casillas for Real Madrid's game at home with Real Sociedad only to see substitute goalkeeper Antonio Adan commit a red card penalty offense at the sixth minute mark. With Iker back in the net, Real pulled out a 4-3 victory (http://bit.ly/RImP9m) thanks to a Ronaldo brace, which cancelled out Xabi Prieto's hat trick for the visitors.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country Barcelona FC won its 17th game of the season, destroying Espanyol of Barcelona 4-0 (http://bit.ly/RImSSD) with a mesmerizing display of first rate football and the requisite Messi score, albeit only a single goal this time. At the same time, Atletico Madrid was held to a 1-1 tie against lowly Mallorca, thus losing ground to both Barca and Real.
Tied at 31 points for the fourth spot on the table and a Champions League slot, Real Betis and Malaga, have different paths to a tiebreak this weekend, with the former playing host to Levante while Malaga host Barca. Real playing at bottom-of-the-table Osasuna and Atletico hosting minnows Zaragoza, should have easier weekend matches.
Yesterday, Real Madrid avenged their 2012 away loss to Celta Vigo with a 4-0 win at home (http://bit.ly/RIn2tf), in order to advance in the Copa del Rey. The match saw a rampant Ronaldo score a hat trick as if to say "Messi who?" Also of note, the shutout featured Iker as a starter.