Barcelona edged Liverpool by three points to take team of the week honors after routing Osasuna 7-0 in the Spanish league. Messi leads the player vote for the second time this season after scoring a hat trick in that victory and becoming Barcelona's all-time leading scorer - including exhibition games - with 371 goals.
''Messi is already the most important forward in Barcelona's history, with 371 goals at the age of 26, and has a long future,'' Orfeo Suarez of El Mundo in Spain said.
Aurelio Capaldi of RAI Sport in Italy highlighted the performance of Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who is fifth in the poll.
''Iniesta keeps acting like a maestro and his performances are always ready to seduce the crowd,'' Capaldi said.
''How Sir Alex Ferguson must regret writing in his autobiography that Steven Gerrard was 'not a top, top player.' The Liverpool captain looked a class apart from the current Manchester United team as he scored twice and oozed authority in their win at Old Trafford,'' Richard Jolly of ESPN said.
''They (Liverpool) achieved the sort of comprehensive, overwhelming win that will be remembered for decades. It was an extraordinary display of dominance.''
Liverpool's title challenge was helped by Aston Villa beating Premier League leader Chelsea 1-0, a result that sees it move into ninth place. Midfielder Fabian Delph, who scored the winning goal, is 10th in the player list.
''Fabian Delph stole the show on Saturday afternoon, putting Nemanja Matic and the entire Chelsea defense to the sword,'' Sam Tighe of Bleacher Report said. ''His back-heeled goal in the 82nd minute sealed the tie in Aston Villa's favor, with the club moving onto 34 points for the season as a result.''
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Arsenal beat Tottenham 1-0 in the north London derby to keep up its title challenge, courtesy of a second-minute goal from Tomas Rosicky. Arsene Wenger's side is eighth this week after exiting the last 16 of the Champions League in a 3-1 aggregate defeat by holder Bayern Munich.
Bayern, last week's poll leader, is third after extending its unbeaten run to 50 games in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
The title race is much closer in Spain, with Real Madrid three points ahead of city rival Atletico Madrid. Both sides won 1-0 this week, and Diego Costa's goal in Atletico's victory over Espanyol put him in fourth place. Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is ninth.
Atletico is fifth in the club vote, while Real Madrid is tied for sixth with Juventus.
In the player vote, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is third after scoring both goals in Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 victory over Saint-Etienne.
AP Global Soccer 10 rankings (week ending March 18):
1. Lionel Messi, 177 points.
2. Steven Gerrard, 101.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 91.
4. Diego Costa, 69.
5. Andres Iniesta, 49.
6. Andrea Pirlo, 45.
(tie) Luis Suarez, 45.
8. Bastain Schweinsteiger, 44.
9. Cristiano Ronaldo, 38.
10. Fabian Delph, 29.
1. Barcelona, 168 points.
2. Liverpool, 165.
3. Bayern Munich, 122.
4. Paris Saint-Germain, 92.
5. Atletico Madrid, 76.
6. Juventus, 62.
(tie) Real Madrid, 62.
8. Arsenal, 61.
9. Aston Villa, 39.
10. Borussia Moenchengladbach, 32.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Andres Iniesta
- Steven Gerrard
- Premier League
- Fabian Delph
- Manchester United
- Aston Villa