Lionel Messi on Monday claimed a record sixth Ballon d’Or, beating Liverpool’s leading nominees and Cristiano Ronaldo to lift soccer’s most prestigious individual trophy.
The Argentine, who won La Liga with Barcelona, but only managed third place in the Copa America with his nation, added to his 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 trophies.
He finished above Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Portugal’s Ronaldo, who has won the award five times.
“I am very lucky, I am blessed. I hope I will continue for a long time,” 32-year-old Messi told reporters. “I realize that I’m lucky even if one day it will be time to retire. It will be tough, but I still have some years ahead of me. Time flies, so I will enjoy football and my family.”
Senegal’s Sadio Mane, who along with runner-up Van Dijk and fellow Liverpool nominees Alisson of Brazil and Mohamed Salah of Egypt, helped the Merseyside club win the UEFA Champions League, came fourth in the poll of international journalists, as well as national team coaches and captains.
“It was amazing,” Van Dijk said. “There are a couple of players like him [Messi] who are fantastic. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved... It’s going to be tough [to win the award] when these guys are around.”
Messi and Ronaldo had between them won 10 consecutive Ballon d’Or until Croatia’s Luka Modric prevailed last year.
Earlier, Megan Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or after leading the US to a record-extending fourth FIFA World Cup title in France this year as they retained the trophy.
The 34-year-old midfielder, the standout player at the summer tournament, succeeded Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, who did not take part in the World Cup.
Rapinoe was not present at the ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet, where the show An American In Paris is playing.
“I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight. It’s absolutely incredible congrats to the other nominees. I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field, it’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded message. “I want to thank my teammates and the US federation.”
Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, a key player in Ajax’s thrilling run to the Champions League semi-finals and now at Juventus, won the Kopa trophy for the best under-21 male player.
Alisson was awarded the Yashin trophy for the best male goalkeeper of the year.
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