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Lionel Messi wins Ballon d’Or for sixth time

Lionel Messi at the 2019 Ballon d’Or awards

PARIS, France, Dec 2 – Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane to take the honours.

Now aged 32, it is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi succeeds Luka Modric, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder who won the prize last year.

Meanwhile, United States World Cup icon Megan Rapinoe won the women’s prize.

Rapinoe, 34, succeeds Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, the inaugural winner of the women’s prize last year, after starring on and off the field as the US retained the World Cup in France in July.

“It’s been an incredible year,” said Rapinoe in a recorded video message having been unable to return to France to collect her award due to playing commitments.

“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, who plays club football for Reign FC in the US, added: “I’m so sorry I can’t be there. I was looking forward to mixing it up with everyone but I’ll do my best to get back there next year.”

Barcelona’s Argentina forward Lionel Messi and US attacker Megan Rapinoe won FIFA’s best players’ awards in Milan.

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.

The latter finished in third place for the award organised by magazine France Football and voted for by a panel of 48 journalists.

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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.

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 at the World Cup. Rapinoe scored the opening goal from the penalty spot as the US beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final to retain their trophy.

But the feminist icon also 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.

Netherlands and Juventus defender, Matthijs de Ligt and his girlfriend Annekee Molenaar arrive to attend the Ballon d’Or ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris – De Ligt won the Kopa Trophy for the best player under 21

At the same time, Dutch starlet Matthijs de Ligt won the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21, while Liverpool star Alisson won the inaugural Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper.

Defender De Ligt, 20, starred in the Ajax side who reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals and won the Dutch title, before joining Juventus in the close season in a deal worth 85.5 million euros.

The award is named after Raymond Kopa, the Real Madrid and France star of the post-war era who won the Ballon d’Or in 1958.

France forward Kylian Mbappe was the inaugural winner of the prize last year.

Alisson is the first winner of the new Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper, named after former USSR icon Lev Yashin.

He helped Liverpool to Champions League glory and also won the Copa America with Brazil, form that also led to him finishing seventh in the voting for the overall men’s Ballon d’Or prize.

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