Paris (AFP) – Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday evening, while USA World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe claimed the women’s prize.
Rapinoe was not at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital, unable to make the trip back to the country where she led the USA to victory in July.
However, Messi was there with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, and two of their children. Now aged 32, it is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d’Or here in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers, I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through,” Messi said on stage after receiving the award from last year’s winner Luka Modric.
“Now 10 years on this is my sixth, in a very different time, very special in my personal life with my wife and three children.”
– Van Dijk comes second –
The Barcelona number 10 took the prize — organised by France Football magazine and voted for by a panel of journalists from around the world — from Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, with Ronaldo third.
It is the first time since 2010 that Ronaldo — who last won the Ballon d’Or in 2017 — has failed to rank in the top two.
Having starred in the Liverpool team that won the Champions League, Van Dijk finished second to Messi just as he did in the voting for FIFA’s equivalent prize, The Best, in September.
“Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him who are a bit unnatural. Six times Ballon d’Or — you need to respect greatness as well,” said Van Dijk.
Van Dijk was one of four Liverpool players in the top 10, with Sadio Mane fourth, Mohamed Salah fifth and goalkeeper Alisson seventh. The latter won a new prize for the goalkeeper of the year, named after former USSR icon Lev Yashin.
Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019, and netted 36 times in total in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barcelona won the title.
He did not enjoy a successful Copa America with Argentina but was also the top scorer in last season’s Champions League with 12 goals.