Barcelona, Messi top season-ending AP soccer poll
LONDON (AP) — Despite failing to win European soccer’s top prize, Barcelona came out as the top team this season in The Associated Press global soccer poll.
And with 60 goals in all competitions, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi earned 66 votes more than Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to top the season-end player rankings.
“Messi’s supreme form until getting injured near the end of the season — a key factor in Barca’s exit from Europe — means he is a more obvious standout for player of the year, especially as Bayern’s success was built more on team and squad depth rather than one outstanding individual,” said panelist James Porteous of the South China Morning Post.
Barcelona has already regained the Spanish league title from Madrid and is on course this weekend to match its rival’s milestone of 100 points from the previous campaign.
The Spanish clubs both exited the Champions League in the semifinals, but the winner Saturday, Bayern Munich, was four points behind Barcelona in the AP tally of votes since the poll launched in October.
In the first all-Bundesliga Champions League final on Saturday, Munich secured a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, which was sixth in the rankings.
Arjen Robben scored the decisive goal at Wembley Stadium, a year after missing a penalty in Bayern’s shootout loss to Chelsea in the final.
“I’m a little surprised Barca edged out Bayern, given the Germans’ domestic dominance and Champions League win, but Barca were hugely impressive before falling to Bayern in the semifinals,” Porteous said.
“In the last six seasons, either Barca or the team that knocked them out have won the Champions League, and with Neymar arriving, they should be strongly placed to win back the European title.”
The 21-year-old Neymar has signed a five-year deal to join Barca from Brazilian club Santos.
Bayern will be led next season by former Barca coach Pep Guardiola when his yearlong sabbatical ends to replace Jupp Heynckes, who also won the Bundesliga this season with a record points haul.
“Jupp Heynckes must be given lots of credit ... he led Bayern Munich to a fantastic season, made the right choices, kept total control of the team even though the news of his replacement broke in the middle of the season,” said voter Aurelio Capaldi from Italian broadcaster RAI Sport.
″(It’s) hard, very hard, for Guardiola to do better than this.”
No teams from outside of Europe made the top 10 in the end-of-season tally of votes.
Manchester United earned third place, ahead of trophy-less Real Madrid, after Alex Ferguson ended almost 27 years in charge by winning a 13th Premier League title.
The leading Premier League player was the striker whose 26 goals helped to secure the title for United — with Robin van Persie third in the rankings, a point ahead of Tottenham attacker Gareth Bale.
AP Global Soccer end-of-season rankings
10 points for first, nine for second, etc.
1. Barcelona, 199 points
2. Bayern Munich, 195
3. Manchester United, 157
4. Real Madrid, 139
5. Juventus, 127
6. Borussia Dortmund, 103
7. Paris Saint-Germain, 74
8. Chelsea, 65
9. Manchester City, 62
10. Atletico Madrid, 45.
1. Lionel Messi, 191 points
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 125
3. Robin van Persie, 67
4. Gareth Bale, 66
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 53
6. Edinson Cavani, 49
(tie) Robert Lewandowski, 49
8. Radamel Falcao, 47
9. Luis Suarez, 37
10. Mario Balotelli, 30