RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil ● Lionel Messi will discover in two weeks if he is the winner of the 2013 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award.
And as the clock counts down to the Awards Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on March 11, respected former France captain and Laureus World Sports Academy Member Marcel Desailly has paid a remarkable tribute to the brilliant Argentina and FC Barcelona star, who scored 91 goals in 2012, beating Gerd Muller’s all-time record of 85 which dates back to 1972.
Desailly said: “Lionel Messi is just extraordinary, a phenomenon. Many footballers have great seasons, but he just keeps producing them year after year. His opponents know how dangerous he is, but they just cannot find a way to stop him scoring. He is without doubt the greatest player of this generation and as a goalscorer one of the greatest players of all time.
“And we should remember that he has achieved all this by the time he is 25. Who knows what he can achieve by the time he stops playing. Even now, I would put him in the same cl ass as di Stefano, Cruyff, Maradona and Pelé,” added Desailly.
In the most prolific year of his career, Messi also overtook the great Pelé, who scored 75 goals in 1958, and he became the first man to be named FIFA World Footballer of the Year four times.
The Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise sporting achievement during the calendar year 2012, are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar. The winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time, will be unveiled at a globally televised Awards Ceremony staged in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, March 11.
Messi, who is nominated for t he fourth straight time, faces a formidable challenge if he is to become the first team player to win this prestigious individual Award. Among the other Nominees whom he must beat are Olympic heroes Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins and three-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports over 140 community sports projects around the world. Since its inception, Laureus has raised €60 million for projects which have improved the lives of more than one-and-a-half million young people.
The 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony, which will be attended by the greatest names in sport, past and present, and broadcast to a worldwide TV aud ience, will be staged at the celebrated Theatro Municipal, a spectacular venue in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, which stages gala performances by international dancers and musicians and which also hosted events at Rio +20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012.
The Laureus World Sports Awards will enhance the calendar of major global events that Rio de Janeiro is hosting in the coming years, such as the 2013 World Judo Championship, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Rio is the birthplace of sport and culture in Brazil, a state of vibrant energy and natural beauty that has become a showcase of the country to the world.
Among the winners who have received Awards at previous Award Ceremonies have been Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Ale x Ferguson, Lewis Hamilton, Justine Henin, Kelly Holmes, Rafael Nadal, Steve Redgrave, Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Kelly Slater, Serena Williams and Zinedine Zidane. Guests attending the Awards Ceremony have included His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, David and Victoria Beckham, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Morgan Freeman, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey.
The full list of Nominees for the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards is:
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
Usain Bolt (Jamaica) Athletics; Mo Farah (UK) Athletics; Lionel Messi (Argentina) Football; Michael Phelps (US) Swimming; Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Motor Racing; Bradley Wiggins (UK) Cycling
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year
Jessica Ennis (UK) Athletics; Allyson Felix (US) Athletics: Missy Franklin (US) Swimming; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) Athletics; Lindsey Vonn (US) Skiing; Serena Williams (US) Tennis
Laureus World Team of the Year
China Olympic Table Tennis Team; European Ryder Cup Team; Miami Heat (US) Basketball; Red Bull Formula One Team (Austria); Spain Men’s Football Team; US Men’s Basketball Team
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year
Yannick Agnel (France) Swimming; Gabby Douglas (US) Gymnastics; Kirani James (Grenada) Athletics: Andy Murray (UK) Tennis; Neymar (Brazil) Football; Ye Shiwen (China) Swimming
Laureus World Comeback of the Year
Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) Athletics; Ernie Els (South Africa) Golf; European Ryder Cup Team; Anna Meares (Australia) Cycling; Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) Athletics; Germany Men’s Olympic Eights Rowing Team
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability
Patrick Anderson (Canada) Wheelchair Basketball; Johanna Benson (Namibia) Athletics; Daniel de Faria Dias (Brazil) Swimming; Alan Fonteles Oliveira (Brazil) Athletics; David Weir (United Kingdom) Wheelchair Racing; Alex Zanardi (Italy) Hand Cycling
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year
Felix Baumgartner (Austria) Skydiving; Jamie Bestwick (UK) BMX; Julie Bresset (France) Mountain Biking; Stephanie Gilmore (Australia) Surfing; Joel Parkinson (Australia) Surfing; Philip Köster (Germany) Windsurfing