Cavani's hat trick topples Messi from AP rankings
It took something very special to topple Lionel Messi from his position on top of the first AP Global Football rankings survey of 2013, and Edinson Cavani's perfect hat trick for Napoli did it.
Left foot, right foot and header, three goals from the Uruguayan that pushed the Serie A team to a 4-1 victory over Roma and into third place in the league.
"Cavani's perfect hat trick against Roma served only to heighten the speculation of a possible January move away from Napoli," panelist Will Tidey of the San Francisco-based Bleacher Report said.
Messi, who slipped from the leading position he has held since the AP rankings were launched in October, ended up sixth after managing only one goal in Barcelona's 4-0 victory over the weekend. The record-breaking Argentina forward did manage to pick up FIFA's Ballon d'Or on Monday night.
"Edinson Cavani - with a hat trick in the key match of Serie A - deserves the title of big gun of the week," Paolo Condo of Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport said.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo saved his team with two goals and was voted into second place by the 17 soccer journalists from around the world who give 10 points for their top players and teams, down to one point for 10th.
Ronaldo was awarded 122 points, 15 points behind Cavani's 137.
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie was third, one point behind Ronaldo.
Barcelona remains the clear leader of the team list with 152 points, 44 points ahead of Premier League leaders Manchester United. Napoli climbed into third in the AP rankings, as well as in Serie A, 10 points clear of Sampdoria. Four Italian teams are in the Top 10, although neither of the Milan teams nor Juventus made the grade.
Struggling Sampdoria and 19-year-old rising star Mauro Icardi were both fourth after the Argentine striker, who was born in the same city as Messi, scored both goals to beat league leader Juventus 2-1.
"Icardi's two goals at Juventus were also exceptional," Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, "and it certainly justified him not being allowed to go home to play for Argentina's under-20 team."
Gazzetta dello Sport's Condo added: "Icardi, a young star, scored against the leaders in the Calcio. Look out for him in the future."
Messi was not even the top Barcelona player in this week's rankings. Pedro Rodriguez, who scored twice in the 4-0 victory over Espanyol, was fifth with 69 points, eight ahead of Messi.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was eighth, despite widespread anger in England for what appeared to be a deliberate handball that helped the Uruguayan score the second and winning goal against non-league Mansfield in the FA Cup.
New Chelsea striker Demba Ba also broke into the top 10 for the first time after scoring two goals on his debut for the London team.
Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng was voted into 11th place, even though he barely played. Boateng was applauded by panelists for walking off the field during an exhibition when he was subjected to racist abuse.
"Milan - Good for them. Change will never come about unless teams take drastic measures against racism. AC Milan was perfectly within their rights walking off the field against Pro Patria," Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News said. "It is really the one and only way to punish fans - deprive them of their gladiatorial entertainment."
Jessop Community Federal Credit Union