Messi can't bring himself to vote for Ronaldo in tactical Ballon d'Or picks while Rooney is popular only in Georgia and North Korea
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With an astonishing and record-breaking 91 goals in the calendar year, it was perhaps a foregone conclusion that Lionel Messi would collect a fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d'Or last night.
But that didn't stop international captains and coaches employing some political voting tactics to try and get their friends, compatriots or teammates further up the leaderboard – or at least block their rivals from winning.
With national team captains, coaches and a selected journalist from each FIFA nation eligible to vote, the annual award seems to have become football's answer to the Eurovision Song Contest in terms of tactical voting.
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Top of the world: Lionel Messi scooped a fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or trophy last night, receiving 41.6 per cent of the votes from international coaches, captain and journalists
Messi had a vote as captain of Argentina and picked Andres Iniesta as his first choice, Xavi as his second and Radamel Falcao as his third pick.
This could be interpreted as returning the favour to his two Barcelona teammates after setting up so many goals for him this year, but it's interesting that his closest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is left out.
Ronaldo is Portugal captain but chose to hand over responsibilities to Bruno Alves, perhaps as a way of getting round the rule that voters can't pick themselves.
Ronaldo is on record as saying that he would vote for himself if he could. 'I am what I am,' he said in the run-up to the award announcement.
But he could rely on Zenit St Petersburg defender Alves to exclude Messi from his voting and put the Real Madrid star, naturally, at the top.
Not his night: Cristiano Ronaldo looked the part, but was a distant second behind Messi, despite delegating his voting rights to Portugal teammate Bruno Alves
Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella
had no room for Ronaldo though and went for Messi and his international
teammate Sergio Aguero, with Falcao, the third choice for quite a large
number of voters, completing his selection.
Paulo Bento, the Portugal manager, was a little more sporting, giving Messi his third pick.
The international coaches are proud and parochial, with many selecting players from their own squad despite them having little chance of scooping the main prize.
Germany's Joachim Low was pretty left-field with his picks, choosing Mesut Ozil first, Manuel Neuer second and Xavi third, while Italy's Cesare Prandelli opted for Andrea Pirlo, who was admired by a number of coaches around the world.
Keeping it in the country: Germany Head Coach Joachim Low (left) picked Mesut Ozil as his first choice
Spain's Vicente del Bosque can be excused for picking Iker Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta but it's a damning indictment of the state of the English team that Roy Hodgson just went for Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao.
Wayne Rooney's only two votes came from Georgia and North Korea, suggesting he has quite a following in those countries, while Mario Balotelli wouldn't have been too happy to learn his only vote came from Palestine.
Voting pact: Wayne Rooney's (right) only votes came from Georgia and North Korea, but plenty gave Robin van Persie (left) a pick
And Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have scored one of the goals of the year, with his audacious propeller kick for Sweden against England, but just two voters – the captain of Djibouti and the Niger coach – thought him worthy of the top prize.
There are also plenty of examples of players going for teammates, former teammates or even those who play in the same position.
Hugo Lloris, of France and Tottenham, selected Casillas as his first choice and, randomly, had Didier Drogba third.
Goalkeeper's Union: Hugo Lloris (left) gave his winning vote to fellow custodian Iker Casillas (right)
Dutchman Wesley Sneijder opted for free-scoring Robin van Persie for his first pick, while Gianluigi Buffon and Casillas also went for national unity with Pirlo and Sergio Ramos respectively their first choices.
Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher chose former Manchester United man Ronaldo ahead of Messi and also included Van Persie third.
Marco van Basten
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