Messi with his new trophy / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Another one for the collection. The prestigious daily newspaper L'Equipe awarded the best athlete of the year award to Lionel Messi. Messi is the newest 'Champions des Champions' (Champion of Champions), and figures amongst other athletic greats such as Carl Lewis, Ayrton Senna, Michael Jordan or Michael Schumacher who have also won the award. The tennis player Novak Djokovic and the Formula 1 pilot Sebastian Vettel finished second and third, respectively.

The fifth footballer

Leo Messi is only the fifth footballer to be named the best athlete of the year since the daily started giving out the yearly award in 1980. Until now, only Paolo Rossi (1982), Diego Armando Maradona (1986), Romario (1994) and Zinedine Zidane (1998) have won the award. Furthermore, all of them were named athlete of the year after they lifted the World Cup trophy; Messi is the only one to win the award in a year where the World Cup has not been played.

During this 2011, the Argentinean has won five titles with FC Barcelona (League, Champions League, Spanish and European Super Cups and the Club World Cup), and he was the highest scorer of the Champions League last season. He’s also on the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award, an award he won in 2009 and 2010.

The French athlete of the year award, also given out by L’Equipe, was won by Nikola Karabatic. The Frenchman helped the Les Bleus win the handball World Cup.

Past champions

2010 Rafael Nadal
2009 Usain Bolt
2008 Usain Bolt
2007 Roger Federer
2006 Roger Federer
2005 Roger Federer
2004 Hicham El Gherrouj
2003 Michael Schumacher
2002 Michael Schumacher
2001 Michael Schumacher
2000 Tiger Woods
1999 Andre Agassi

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