Lionel Messi’s masterful goals and transcendent talent earned him the title of the world’s best soccer player in each of the last three years.
But when selecting Europe’s top player, voters chose the man who has spent the last few years making Messi and his Barcelona teammates look good.
Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta was handed the UEFA Best Player in Europe award on Thursday, narrowly edging Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Iniesta finished with 19 votes while Messi and Ronaldo tied with 17 each in a vote conducted by 53 sports journalists from each of the group’s member nations. And judging by his initial reaction, the results stunned the 28-year-old Spaniard.
The presentation preceded the UEFA Champions League draw. See the group draws here.
While Barcelona came up short in their La Liga title defense and fell to eventual champions Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League semifinals, Iniesta also helped the Spanish national team defend its Euro title in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
Barcelona drew Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic in Group G of this year’s Champions League.