By Fitzgerald Cecilio

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was named best player in the recently concluded La Liga 2011-02 season, beating Real Madrid duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema for the award.

Messi, who scored 50 goals last season, was also named the league's best striker while his former mentor Pep Guardiola was selected best coach by the players and coaches of the top two divisions in Spain.

"I want to thank the coaches who have voted me the best player and my professional colleagues who have named me best player. I'm very happy and very proud," said Messi after winning his two awards for the fourth successive year.

In his final season at Nou Camp, Guardiola led Barcelona to victory in the Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Copa, European Super Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. The team also placed second in La Liga and reached the Champions League semifinals.

Meanwhile, Andres Iniesta was named best attacking midfielder, Carlos Puyol won the fair play award and Barcelona B's Marc Bartra was voted the best defender in the second division.

Real Madrid, which ended Barcelona's three-year reign as Spanish champions, also got its share of the awards as Iker Casillas was named best goalkeeper, Sergio Ramos best defender and Xabi Alonso best central midfielder.

"I want to thank the coaches who thought of me as the best keeper last season," said Casillas, who beat Barcelona's Victor Valdes and Real Zaragoza's Roberto for the award. "I am happy with this recognition and hope to win again next year, which would be a third time for me."

Malaga youngster Isco won the breakthrough player crown while the best player in the second division was Deportivo La Coruna veteran Juan Carlos Valeron.



Barcelona's Lionel Messi Named Top La Liga Player