Messi stays top of AP rankings - by 1 point

SIMON HAYDON Associated Press Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Lionel Messi only narrowly stayed on top of AP's Global Soccer Rankings this week despite breaking the record for goals scored in a calendar year, finishing just one point ahead of five-goal striker Radamel Falcao of Spanish league rival Atletico Madrid.

"Messi or Falcao? Falcao or Messi?" said Eurosport's Cedric Rouquette. "Two superheavyweights went head to head for first place this week. Dethroning Messi in the week he beat Gerd Mueller's goal-scoring record with two clinical goals would take something special. And Falcao's five goals were an astonishing performance."

Messi's Barcelona was knocked off the top of the team rankings by Manchester United, which beat city rival Manchester City 3-2 to stay top of the Premier League.

Messi was given 170 points by the 18 voters to Falcao's 169. Wayne Rooney was third with 120 after he scored twice for United.

Aurelio Capaldi of Italy's Rai Sport put Rooney at the top of his list rather than Messi or Falcao.

"Messi's record is impressive and Radamel Falcao scoring five goals in a game for the first time in his professional career is outstanding, but Wayne Rooney deserves the top spot this week as he was the man of the match at the Etihad Stadium," Capaldi said.

Messi broke Mueller's 40-year-old record for most goals in a year by scoring for the 86th time in 2012 on Sunday. The Argentina forward netted twice to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win at Real Betis.

Meanwhile, Falcao became the first player to score five goals in one game in the Spanish league since Fernando Morientes for Real Madrid in the 2001-02 season, leading Atletico to a 6-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

AP's panel of global football journalists agreed that Chelsea's long-struggling striker Fernando Torres has returned to form, voting him into fifth place with 65 points, two behind Roma captain Francesco Totti, who scored twice and set up two more goals in a 4-2 win that ended Fiorentina's nine-match unbeaten run.

Torres scored four times for Chelsea in a week.

"Torres is coming back with coach Rafa Benitez who took him to the top in Liverpool years ago," said Orfeo Suarez of Spain's El Mundo. "Two important victories for Chelsea in the week before the Club World Cup."

Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said: "I may face a conundrum next week if Chelsea wins the Club World Cup. I've sworn them off for the time being, but can I leave the 'world champs' out of the top 10?"

In the team vote, Manchester United jumped from fourth to take first place with 145 points, ahead of Barcelona on 131 and Bayern Munich (110), which leapt from 10th to third place. Bayern finished first in its Champions League group with a 4-1 victory over Bate Borisov and then stayed top of the Bundesliga with a 2-0 away victory to Augsburg.

Juventus dropped one place to fourth, despite winning to stay top of Serie A. The top teams in Europe's top four leagues fill the top four places in the AP rankings.

Falcao's Atletico Madrid is in fifth place while Real Madrid fell from second to sixth, giving Spain three clubs in the top six.

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AP Global Soccer 10 Rankings for week ending Dec. 10

(Previous week's rankings in brackets)

Players:

1. Lionel Messi (1), 170 points.

2. Radamel Falcao, 169.

3. Wayne Rooney (5), 120.

4. Mesut Oezil, 98.

5. Francesco Totti, 67.

6. Fernando Torres, 65.

7. Robin van Persie, 44.

8. Vedad Ibisevic, 29.

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 21.

10. Stefan El Shaarawy (3), 19.

Teams:

1. Manchester United (4), 145 points.

2. Barcelona (1), 131.

3. Bayern Munich (10), 110

4. Juventus (3), 84.

5. Atletico Madrid, 68.

6. Real Madrid (2), 55.

7. Inter Milan, 52.

8. Paris Saint-Germain 46.

9. Lyon (5), 41.

(tie) PSV Eindhoven 41

Based on 18 voters, using 10 points for top to 1 point for bottom place.