Messi won the FIFA award for a second straight year yesterday, finishing ahead of Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
"It's a very special day for me," Messi said through a translator on receiving the award at a gala ceremony in FIFA's home city.
The 23-year-old Messi amassed 58 goals last year for an exciting Barcelona team which retained the Spanish league title and leads the standings this season. However, he failed to score in South Africa as Argentina exited in the quarterfinals. Iniesta and Xavi, by comparison, starred for eventual winner Spain.
"I didn't expect to win it today," Messi said. "Already it's a source of happiness to be here with my friends and even more to win it."
Messi obtained 22.65 percent of the votes cast by coaches and captains of national teams plus invited journalists. The original shortlist featured 23 players. Andres Iniesta finished second with 17.36 percent and Xavi received 16.48 percent to finish third for the second straight year.
All three candidates honed their craft at Barcelona's celebrated La Masia youth academy.
Barcelona has now provided eight winners in the 20-year history of the FIFA honor. Messi follows former Brazil internationals Romario (1994), Ronaldo (1996 and '97), Rivaldo (1999) and Ronaldinho (2004 and '05).
The award was renamed this year after FIFA merged its world player award with the Ballon d'Or trophy, which had been presented to the best player in Europe by France Football magazine since 1956.
Jose Mourinho won the men's coach award for leading Inter Milan to a treble including the Champions League.
Mourinho beat World Cup-winning Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and Pep Guardiola of Barcelona to the inaugural honor.
The Portuguese coach guided Inter to the Italian league and cup double before leaving to join Real Madrid.
"The most important things for me are the collective titles, not the individual ones," Mourinho said.
Brazil forward Marta won the women's player award for a fifth straight year, defeating three-time German winner Birgit Prinz and Kosovo-born newcomer Lira Bajramaj.
Marta was rewarded for her outstanding season with United States women's professional league champion Gold Pride. She is a free agent after the Santa Clara, California, club folded in November.
"I'm looking at contracts for the league. For the time being I have nothing confirmed," she said through a translator.
Silvia Neid won the inaugural women's coaching award for her work with the Germany national team, which defends its World Cup title at home in July. Also shortlisted were Maren Meinert, whose Germany Under-20 team was world champion in July, and Pia Sundhage, the Swedish coach of the United States' Olympic champions.
Haitian football received the FIFA fair play award for its recovery from an earthquake which devastated the Caribbean island last January.
The FIFA presidential award was given to Archbishop Desmond Tutu in recognition of South Africa's organization of the World Cup.
Tutu praised FIFA President Sepp Blatter for his passion and determination to ensure Africa would host the tournament.
"I want to pay a very warm tribute," the former Nobel Peace Prize winner said. "It is one in the eye for the Afro pessimists."
All three Ballon d'Or nominees featured in a World XI lineup chosen by FIFA and the FIFPro group of players' unions worldwide. The team consisted entirely of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid and European champion Inter.
Spain captain Iker Casillas from Madrid was chosen as goalkeeper. In defense, Barcelona pair Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were joined by Inter's Maicon and Lucio.
Wesley Sneijder of Inter completed a midfield trio comprising Iniesta and Xavi. The attack teamed Messi and David Villa, who joined Barca from Valencia in May, with Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hamit Altintop won the Puskas Award for most beautiful goal in 2010 for his volley for Turkey against Kazakhstan in a 2012 European Championship qualifying match. The Bayern Munich midfielder connected with a right-footed shot from 18 meters (yards) after a left-flank corner had looped directly into his path for the ball to fly into the back of the net.
Altintop was chosen from a shortlist of 10 goals in a global online poll of more than one million fans. The award is named after the late Hungary and Real Madrid great Ferenc Puskas.