Barcelona's Messi beat Xavi and Ronaldo to win the award
Lionel Messi has won the FIFA Ballon d'Or prize for the best player of 2011 at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.
He becomes only the fourth player in history to win the trophy three times, reports the BBC.
The Argentine, 24, beat off competition from Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate, Xavi.
Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson won the Presidential Award for services to football, while Barcelona's Pep Guardiola was voted Coach of the Year.
The 70-year-old Scot was presented with the award by FIFA President Sepp Blatter who said: "Elite football is all about results and winning and there is no one better at it than him."
Ferguson praised Manchester United for sharing his vision of the game.
He said: "I have been a very, very lucky manager to have had so many good players who have shared my vision and passion, and that's what makes Manchester United such a special club.
"They retain the courage to play, the courage to try and win."
Messi previously won the prestigious accolade in 2009 and 2010.
He was the man of the match in the Champions League final victory over Manchester United and also won the Primera Division, Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup last year.
"It's a great personal pleasure for me," said Messi.
"It's the third time I've won it. It's just an amazing honour. I want to thank everyone that's been involved with me - my team-mates, trainers, physios, the coach [Pep Guardiola] and everyone at Barcelona.
"I'd also like to thank the Argentina national team as well."
Messi's Barcelona team-mate Xavi paid tribute to the winner: "He's still young, only 24, and I think he's going to break all the records that exist in this sport.
"He's going to be one of the best footballers in the history of the sport."
Other awards went to Japan's women's World Cup-winning captain, Homare Sawa for the women's player; Japan's (male) manager Norio Sasaki coach of the year for women's football; the Japanese FA was awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award and 19-year-old Brazilian Neymar of Santos won the FIFA Puskas award for the Best Goal of 2011.