PARIS: Lionel Messi has beaten Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned winner of the Ballon d’Or, organised by Paris magazine France Football, or a record sixth time.
The Barcelona legend, who also pipped van Dijk to the FIFA Best Men’s Player gong back in September, had been level with his great rival Ronaldo as a five-time winner of this prestigious award but now he’s out on his own.
Messi may have felt disappointed with ‘just’ winning a 10th La Liga crown during the 2018-19 season after missing out on the Champions League with Barca and the Copa America with Argentina but he did score a staggering 51 goals for his club.
Many of those were fantastic but his most memorable will go down as his free kick against Liverpool in the Champions League and his Puskas award-nominated hat-trick goal against Real Betis.
The 32-year-old’s triumph means the award stays in Spain for a 10th successive year, with Messi bringing it back to La Liga after Cristiano Ronaldo first bagged it for Manchester United in 2008.
Ronaldo (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) managed to win four more Ballon d’Ors during his time at Real Madrid while his former team-mate Luka Modric picked it up 12 months ago.
Van Dijk had originally been favourite to land the big award for a long time – just like he was before the FIFA ceremony two months ago – having pipped both superstars to the UEFA player award in August, but he can still be more than happy with a quite brilliant spell in his career which included lifting the Champions League trophy.
The Dutchman was bidding to become the fourth player from his country to win the Ballon d’Or behind Johan Cruyff (1971, 1973, 1974), Marco van Basten (1988, 1989, 1992) and Ruud Guillet (1987) and just the second player to do it while at Liverpool, following in the footsteps of Michael Owen.
The result means Owen, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Stanley Matthews are the only players to win it while playing for English clubs.
The women’s Ballon d’Or went to American star Megan Rapinoe after an incredible year in which she won the World Cup as well as the golden boot and golden ball at the same tournament.
England’s Lucy Bronze was second ahead of Alex Morgan.
Matthijs de Ligt won the Kopa Trophy for being voted the world’s best young player Juventus.
The 20-year-old, now at Juventus, was fantastic for both Ajax and the Netherlands last season, being pivotal in their respective runs to the Champions League semi-final and the Nations League final.
Liverpool’s Alisson Becker was handed the first ever Yashin Trophy for being the best goalkeeper due to his exploits for helping Liverpool win the Champions League and Brazil in the Copa America.
Alisson, who was sent off for Liverpool on Saturday, finished ahead of Barcelona’s Marc Andre ter Stegen and Manchester City’s Ederson.
Messi’s career honours
LaLiga (10): 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2012-13, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19
Copa del Rey (six): 2008-09, 2011-12, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18
Champions League (four): 2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2014-15.
FIFA Under-20 World Cup: 2005.
Olympic gold medal: 2008.
Ballon d’Or/FIFA Ballon d’Or (six): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019.