Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta both lauded club-mate Lionel Messi after tonight being pipped by the Argentinian to become the inaugural winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or.
Messi, 23, finished ahead of Xavi and Iniesta in the voting for the award, which was created following the merger of France Football magazine's Footballer of the Year prize with the FIFA World Player of the Year gong - Messi the holder of both titles.
Xavi, who along with Iniesta helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010, hailed Messi and felt the award is also a success for Barca's famous youth system, from which all three players in the shortlist graduated.
"He (Messi) is one step above us all. He's the best player and there can be no argument. This is also a prize for the Barca youth team set-up and I am proud to be a part of that," said Xavi.
When asked if he thought his chances of winning the award himself had now passed, the 30-year-old Xavi added: "We'll see what happens next year. My life wouldn't have changed if I'd won, and neither is it going to change by not winning. I'm going to continue working with the same hopes."
The 26-year-old Iniesta, who struck the winning goal in Spain's World Cup final win over Holland, said: "If the people have voted for Leo Messi it's because he deserves it and because he's a just winner.
"I'm not disappointed. To be here is already a prize, hopefully I can repeat it. We'll see what happens. The important thing is to do things well, because you can't control the other things.
"We were the three nominations, any of us could have won, but Leo has won and we need to congratulate him. We are very happy for him and for having been here."
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, who was named in the World XI, added: "All three deserved to win it. It seems in the end that the people went for individual level and right now he (Messi) is a step above."