Messi wins sixth Ballon d’Or as Rapinoe takes women’s prize

As if any reminder of his brilliance were required, on Sunday he scored a wonderful late winner for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid.

– ‘Incredible year’ for Rapinoe –

This is just the second year that a women’s Ballon d’Or — voted for by a smaller panel of 48 journalists — has been awarded, with Rapinoe succeeding Norway’s Ada Hegerberg as the winner.

The prolific Hegerberg starred as Lyon again won the Champions League, but her self-imposed exile from her national team prevented her from featuring at the World Cup.

Rapinoe, meanwhile, was the star of that tournament on and off the field.

She won the Golden Boot for top scorer, with six goals, and Golden Ball for best player. Rapinoe scored the opening goal from the penalty spot as the USA beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

But the 34-year-old feminist icon made headlines with her outspoken criticism of US President Donald Trump during the tournament and by leading the calls for her team to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

“It’s been an incredible year,” said Rapinoe in a recorded video message.

“I want to say a huge thank you to my team-mates, the coaches, the US Soccer Federation, for all of the support to allow me to be who I am and do what I do on the field but also be the person who I am off the field.”

Rapinoe was one of four members of the US side that lifted the World Cup to be nominated for the prize, along with Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan, who finished third on Monday.

England’s Lucy Bronze, who won the Champions League with Lyon before reaching the World Cup semi-finals with her country, losing to the US, came in second in the Ballon d’Or.

Matthijs de Ligt succeeded Kylian Mbappe as the winner of the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21.

The defender starred in the Ajax side who reached the Champions League semi-finals and won the Dutch title, before joining Juventus in the close season.

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