LONDON - Lionel Messi brushed aside all challengers in the AP Global Soccer rankings this week, although his Barcelona team came close to being topped by new world club champion Corinthians.
Messi, with two more goals to his name in La Liga at the weekend for a staggering 90 on the year, received 169 points out of a possible 190 from AP's panel of 19 global football journalists.
Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio played a key role in the 1-0 defeat of Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in Japan on Sunday and earned 72 points, two more than Manchester United's Dutch striker Robin van Persie.
"Messi gets two more in the best match in La Liga," panelist Orfeo Suarez of Spain's El Mundo newspaper said. "And Barcelona has 13 points more than Real Madrid."
After being knocked off the top of the rankings last week by Manchester United, Barcelona was bcck in first place this week, but by just one point over Corinthians.
"The victory over Chelsea in the final of the Club World Cup returned the trophy to South America after six years," panelist Leonardo Bertozzi of ESPN Brazil said, "rewarding the brilliant work of coach Tite who did it without any world-class players."
Barcelona won 161 points out of 190, Corinthians scored 160, and United was some way back in third place on 103, just ahead of Juventus, which stayed in fourth place.
Paris Saint-Germain notched its highest ranking since they began in October, winning 75 points to finish fifth after the impressive 1-0 victory over Lyon that took the Parisian side to the top of Ligue 1. Manchester City came in sixth, ahead of Lazio and AC Milan, giving Italy three teams in the top 10.
Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put Cassio in the top spot.
"Players who do good things in very important games should get a little extra credit, which is why Cassio's play in the Club World Cup gets top billing this week, ahead of standby Messi, who usually is in the top spot," Timmerman said.
"Corinthians are the first non-European club I've put on my ballot. I feel a little awkward putting the club that's sixth in the Brazilian standings in my top 10, but they beat Chelsea, which counts for something. Paris Saint-Germain jumping over Lyon made the decision easy at the bottom of the top 10."
Cassio had to share the individual support for Corinthians' cup victory with Paolo Guerrero, the scorer of the only goal of the game in Yokohama who was fourth with 69 points.
Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao also scored, but was on the wrong end of a 4-1 thrashing by Messi and Barcelona. He received 59 votes to finish fifth, down from last week's second place.
"Atletico Madrid presented the latest challenge to Barca," Bleacher Report's Will Tidey said. "Tito Vilanova's team swept it aside."
Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling has been gradually drawing attention to himself, and his two goals against Hamburg in the Bundesliga lifted him to sixth place, just ahead of fellow German Miroslav Klose of Lazio.
"Stefan Kiessling is gathering attention in Germany," said Christian Schatzle of Derfussballblogger.de. "He played a strong opening half to the season for Bayer Leverkusen and was the outstanding man with two goals and an assist in the 3-0 win over Hamburger SV."
One of Europe's classiest players, Andrea Pirlo of Juventus, was eighth with 40 points.
AP Global Soccer 10 Rankings for week ending Dec. 17 .
(Previous week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Lionel Messi (1), 169 points.
2. Cassio, 72.
3. Robin van Persie (7), 70.
4. Paolo Guerrero, 69.
5. Radamel Falcao (2), 59.
6. Stefan Kiessling, 49.
7. Miroslav Klose, 44.
8. Andrea Pirlo, 40.
9. Adel Taarabt, 35
10. Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 26
(tie) Yaya Toure, 26
1. Barcelona (2), 161 points.
2. Corinthians, 160.
3. Manchester United (1), 103.
4. Juventus (4), 100.
5. Paris Saint-Germain (8), 75.
6. Manchester City, 49.
7. Lazio, 40.
8. AC Milan, 28.
9. Bayern Munich (3), 23
(tie) Borussia Dortmund, 23.
Based on 19 voters, using 10 points for top to 1 point for bottom place
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