On Monday 1 October, Lionel Messi, winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2011, launched the vote for this year’s FIFA/FIFPro World XI. The Barcelona forward filled in his ballot and encouraged all other professional footballers around the world to do the same: “I’ve chosen a FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Now it’s your turn,” the Argentinian said.

FIFPro, the organisation made up of players’ unions from across the globe, sent out approximately 45,000 voting slips worldwide, which have now been distributed to footballers in Asia, America, Africa and Europe thanks to the diligent support of the local unions. Following Messi’s example, players can now put together their own dream team, which must include one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.

“It’s a great prize, because it means you were chosen by your fellow professionals. Every player you select will be a winner,” Messi told FIFPro.

It has become tradition for the previous year’s winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or to cast the first vote in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Messi was given the honour for the third consecutive year.

Michel Platini is the only other player ever to have won the Ballon d'Or three times in a row. Messi was therefore understandably proud of his ‘hat-trick’, as he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview.

“It’s a great honour to win this award three times, especially to get them one after the other. After all, it’s hard enough to win this accolade in the first place and even harder to be the best player in the world for three consecutive years. I’m very happy and enjoy it as much as I did the first time.”

As was the case last year, the World XI will be announced at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala, which will take place on 7 January 2013 in Zurich. Messi is among the favourites to be included in the select eleven, in what will be the fourth time FIFA and FIFPro have jointly-organised the award.

At the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala in January 2011 in Zurich, Messi was chosen as the world’s best player and was among the FIFA/FIFPro World XI along with Iker Casillas (goalkeeper), Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic (all defence), Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Xavi (all midfield), Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (both attack)