His teammates Luis Suarez and Neymar da Silva ranked fourth and 12th, respectively, the CIES Football Observatory said. The CIES is a private foundation affiliated to the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Messi's long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid placed only 29th in the ranking for forwards, while his teammates Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema came in 35th and 37th, respectively.
"This data reflects the difficulties faced by Real Madrid after the winning of the FIFA Club World Cup in December," the Football Observatory said.
Topping the lists per position were Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen) for center backs, Gaël Clichy (Manchester City) for full backs, Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund) for defensive midfielders and Eden Hazard (Chelsea) for attacking midfielders.
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