LONDON (AP) — Robin van Persie held off last year’s winner Lionel Messi to earn player of the week honors in the first round of The Associated Press global soccer poll.
Both players scored twice, but Van Persie’s acrobatic volley and long-range goal in Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Swansea in the Premier League gave the Dutchman the edge over Messi by five points.
“Van Persie’s goals were outstanding and broke open a tight game that wasn’t always going Man United’s way in the early going,” said panelist Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post. “The only reason I put him ahead of Messi was that he did it against better competition.”
But Messi’s Barcelona finished at the top of the team voting with 221 of an available 230 points after its 7-0 thrashing of Levante in the Spanish League.
“Six of their seven goals came in a scintillating first half display,” said Paris-based soccer writer Mark Rodden. “The scary thing for the rest of La Liga is that new Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino thinks they can still improve.”
United is in second position, ahead of Juventus in third and English side Chelsea, who is fourth.
Big-spending French club Monaco is in fifth. Forward Emmanuel Riviere, who scored his first career hat trick in the 4-1 win over Montpellier in the French league, finished third in the player rankings.
Riviere came 46 points above Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas in fourth. The 26-year-old Fabregas was instrumental in his team’s weekend triumph after an offseason where English champion United tried to sign the Spain midfielder.
“Cesc Fabregas swept every rumor and discussion about his future away with a brilliant opening effort conducting FC Barcelona like a maestro to an impressive win,” said Soren Mikael Hansen, sports editor of Politiken in Denmark.
Hoffenheim midfielder Roberto Firmino has been voted into fifth place by the AP’s panel of 23 journalists.
Firmino scored two and assisted on the other three goals in Hoffenheim’s 5-1 win away to Hamburg — a victory that places Hoffenheim eighth in the top-ten teams.
“I’m dying to see Roberto Firmino in the top 10,” said James Thorogood of Bundesliga.com. “I’ve been raving about him for three years now and on the back of this weekend’s performance he truly deserves it so fingers crossed the rest of the esteemed panel have taken notice.”
Van Persie’s strike partner at United, Danny Welbeck, entered the player rankings in seventh place after scoring the other two goals for United in its opening fixture.
Pedro was in 10th place, meaning three Barcelona players made the top 10 players in the first week of voting for the 2013-14 season.
Elsewhere in the team rankings, Aston Villa makes a rare appearance after it beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Villa is sixth in the ranking on 68 points, four ahead of Bayern Munich, which beat Frankfurt to make it two wins from two games in the Bundesliga under Pep Guardiola.
AP Global Soccer Rankings for the week ending Aug. 23.
Based on 23 voters: 10 points for first, 9 for second, etc.
1.Barcelona, 221 points.
2.Manchester United, 189.
6.Aston Villa, 68.
7.Bayern Munich, 64.
9.Manchester City, 47.
10.Atletico Madrid, 46.
1.Robin van Persie, 189 points.
2.Lionel Messi, 179.
3.Emmanuel Riviere, 117.
4.Cesc Fabregas, 71.
5.Roberto Firmino, 64.
6.Diego Costa, 51.
7.Danny Welbeck, 43.
9.Stephan Lichtsteiner, 33.