Van Persie beats Messi to top AP player poll

AP, LONDON

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 18

Robin van Persie held off last year’s winner, Lionel Messi, to earn player of the week honors in the first round of The Associated Press (AP) global soccer poll.

Both players scored twice, but Van Persie’s acrobatic volley and long-range goal in Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Swansea City in the Premier League gave the Dutchman the edge over Messi by five points.

“Van Persie’s goals were outstanding and broke open a tight game that wasn’t always going Man United’s way in the early going,” panelist Tom Timmermann of the St Louis Post said. “The only reason I put him ahead of Messi was that he did it against better competition.”

However, Messi’s Barcelona finished at the top of the team voting with 221 of an available 230 points after their 7-0 thrashing of UD Levante in La Liga.

“Six of their seven goals came in a scintillating first-half display,” Paris-based soccer writer Mark Rodde said. “The scary thing for the rest of La Liga is that new Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino thinks they can still improve.”

United were in second position, ahead of Juventus in third and English side Chelsea, who were ranked fourth.

Big-spending French club AS Monaco cane in fifth and their forward Emmanuel Riviere — who scored his first career hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Montpellier Herault in Ligue 1 — finished third in the player rankings.

Riviere came 46 points above Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas in fourth. The 26-year-old Fabregas was instrumental in his team’s weekend triumph.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Roberto Firmino has been voted into fifth place by the AP’s panel of 23 journalists.

Firmino scored two and assisted on the other three goals in Hoffenheim’s 5-1 win away to Hamburg SV in a victory that places Hoffenheim eighth in the top-ten teams.

“I’m dying to see Roberto Firmino in the top 10,” James Thorogood of Bundesliga.com said. “I’ve been raving about him for three years now and on the back of this weekend’s performance he truly deserves it, so fingers crossed the rest of the esteemed panel have taken notice.”

Van Persie’s strike partner at United, Danny Welbeck, entered the player rankings in seventh place after scoring the other two goals for United in their opening fixture.

Pedro came in 10th place, meaning three Barcelona players made the top 10 players in the first week of voting for the 2013-2014 season.

Elsewhere in the team rankings, Aston Villa made a rare appearance after beating Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Villa came sixth in the rankings on 68 points, four ahead of Bayern Munich, who beat Eintracht Frankfurt to make it two wins from two games in the Bundesliga under the charge of former Barca manager Pep Guardiola.