LONDON (AP) — 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 scored two goals in La Liga last weekend for a staggering 90 this year, received 169 points of a possible 190 from 19 global soccer journalists on The Associated Press panel.
Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio played a key role in the 1-0 defeat of Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in Japan on Sunday. He 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 back in first place this week, by 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 drew 161 of 190 points and Corinthians was at 160. United was in third place at 103, just ahead of Juventus, which stayed in fourth.
Paris Saint-Germain notched its highest ranking since it 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."
Paolo Guerrero, who had the only goal in Corinthians' victory in Yokohama, was fourth with 69 points.
Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao scored in a 4-1 loss to 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 had two goals and an assist against Hamburg in a 2-0 victory the Bundesliga. He rose 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.
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. (tie) Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 26
10. (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. (tie) Bayern Munich (3), 23
9. (tie) Borussia Dortmund, 23.
Based on 19 voters, with 10 points for first place and 1 point for last place