Football: Messi named La Liga player of month for the first time

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi gestures after missing an attempt on goal during the Spanish league football match Levante UD vs FC Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on Feb 7, 2016.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi gestures after missing an attempt on goal during the Spanish league football match Levante UD vs FC Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on Feb 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - In a stellar 12-year career, Lionel Messi has won the world player of the year award five times and broken endless goalscoring records, but he had never been named player of the month in Spain, until now.

The 28-year-old Argentine forward received the award for La Liga's player of the month for January on Friday (Feb 12), the first time he has won a prize inaugurated in 2013.

His eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo won the award back in November 2013 and the likes of Atletico Madrid pair Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin and Nolito of Celta Vigo have won it twice.

Messi, meanwhile, has had to wait until now despite winning the La Liga title seven times in his career.

As well as winning the Ballon d'or in January, Messi scored six goals in five games in La Liga to help Luis Enrique's side hold a three-point lead at the top of the table over Atletico Madrid while also having a game in hand.

Messi, who became the all-time leading scorer in La Liga in 2014, has scored 298 goals in Spain's top flight and will have the chance to reach the 300 mark at home to Celta on Sunday.