Monday 11 January 2016, 21:41

Exclusive: Heroes and icons speak with

The FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala draws the biggest names in world football to Zurich. This year was no different, with the best players of the past year honoured at the glamorous Kongresshaus in the Swiss metropolis. FIFA.comwas of course on hand, and took the opportunity to conduct exclusive background interviews with several of the biggest stars from both the women’s and men’s game. The hidden sides of the superstars The newly crowned winner and now five-time Ballon d’Or holder Lionel Messi discussed his initial plans for the future with us. “One day I’d like to play in the Argentinian league,” said Messi, who joined Barcelona at the age of 13. “I left my homeland very early on and was never able to sample the football there.”

Messi’s Brazilian team-mate Neymar told FIFA.comabout what he had learned at the Catalan club over the past year that culminated with him finishing in third place in the Ballon d’Or 2015: “Above all it was about solidarity and feeling ecstatic when you’ve helped a team-mate. This Barcelona team has taught me a lot about that and I hope that I can take that with me whenever I’m called up to the national team.”

Meanwhile, last year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo stressed that above all hard work was the root of his success. “I always try to do my job as well as I possibly can,” said the Portuguese. “That’s where the statistics and awards come from. And that’s why people view me as a great professional.”

One-on-one with Lloyd, Miyama and Sasic Having scored the winning goals in the finals of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments in 2008 and 2012, as well as netting a hat-trick in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™ title-decider, USA’s freshly crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year winner Carli Lloyd said: “I have a button inside me that is automatically pressed when there’s a lot riding on the game and when the pressure rises. I live for those moments!”

Japan were famously on the receiving end of a defeat by USA in the Women’s World Cup Final in Canada, having come out on top at the tournament in Germany four years previously. Nadeshiko playmaker Aya Miyama revealed that for her, the eternal rivalry between the sides is far from over, telling “I want revenge”.

The top German striker Celia Sasic, who surprisingly hung up her boots aged 27 after winning the adidas Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer in Canada last summer, raised her fans’ hope of a comeback, albeit with a difference: “Just because I’m no longer playing professionally doesn’t mean I’ve said goodbye to football. I’ve only given up being a professional. Football is my passion and I can definitely imagine coming back. At the moment I don’t think that would be as a coach, maybe I’m still too close to it all.”

Big names, big words Furthermore, Argentinian coaching legend Carlos Bilardo gave his views on the exciting comparison between Messi and Diego Maradona, while Paul Breitner, a World Cup winner with Germany in 1974, revealed what he believes to be the secret behind Germany’s much-publicised winning mentality. The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka spoke to us about his hopes of causing a stir again with Brazil** in a new way, while Dani Alves told us that after retiring his plans will have nothing to do with football.

Yet that is not all. We chatted at length to France’s young star Paul Pogba, Croatia’s technically gifted midfielder Luka Modric, Brazil’s defensive rock Thiago Silva, Germany’s former fan favourite Gerald Asamoah, Spain’s World Cup heroes Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos, Chile’s successful coach Jorge Sampaoli, and many more. Moreover, from the world of women’s football we had fascinating conversations with former FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and Germany goalkeeping icon Nadine Angerer, fellow shot-stopping legend Hope Solo from the USA, as well as top women’s coaches Jill Ellis, Norio Sasaki and Mark Sampson.

Over the next few days and weeks we will publish all of our exclusive background interviews with some of the biggest names in world football – the majority of which will also be available in video format. Stay on the ball with to ensure you do not miss out!