Lionel Messi of Spain's Barcelona celebrates after he scored their first goal against Brazil's Santos during their Club World Cup final soccer match in Yokohama, south of Tokyo Dec 18, 2011.
BUENOS AIRES - Barcelona's Lionel Messi was named as Argentina's sports personality of the year on Wednesday, winning the Olimpia de Oro (gold) for the first time.
The prize, his first in his home country, is awarded by Argentina's sports writers and follows a year in which his goals helped Barca win Spain's La Liga, the European Champions League and the Club World Cup.
"I'm happy and proud of the award. Thanks to God, I've received prizes all over the world but I'd never before had one in Argentina," his country's captain told reporters.
Clay "caganers" representing Lionel Messi are sold at the Santa Llucia Christmas market in central Barcelona Dec 21, 2011. Catalans hide "caganers", or defecators, in Christmas Nativity scenes then invite friends to hunt for them during Christmas celebrations. The "caganers", which symbolise defecating and fertilizing the earth, are believed to bring prosperity and luck for the coming year.
Messi is also in line to win a third consecutive Ballon d'Or, the prize for the world's best footballer.
He returned to Argentina to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with family and friends in his home town of Rosario.
The Olimpia de Oro was won by Luciana Aymar, captain of Argentina's world champion women's hockey team, in 2010 and former US Open tennis champion Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.