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 following the 2018 World Cup.
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Gracias a @francefootball y a los periodistas que me votaron. Este premio no lo podría haber ganado sin la ayuda de mis compañeros, tanto del @fcbarcelona como de la @afaseleccion, por eso también es de todos ellos. Y por supuesto es de mi familia, a quienes también se lo dedico, y que tanto me apoyan cada día.
Meanwhile, the 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.
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This year has been the craziest of them all. I don’t even really know how put into words how special this has been. The TEAM shook the world, and continues to. Yes the 23 players on the field, yes the coaching staff, and extended staff for the team, but the TEAM I’m talking about goes far beyond those who are lucky enough to wear the crest. The TEAM is our family, friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, wives and husbands. The TEAM is the thousands of fans who cheered for a team that asked them to care more about just the game of soccer, more than just themselves, more than just people who looked like them, more than just winning. For that, I am forever grateful. I think this World Cup win, and all the subsequent wins, both personal and team, feel so special because for the first time in a long time, it feels like WE ALL WON. And while I am truly honored to win @francefootball Ballon D’Or, I’d like to accept this on behalf of us ALL. WE DESERVE THIS. I am forever grateful to my beautiful family❤️ I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here with out you @sbird10 I love you forever 🦖
“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.”
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.
This article was first published by Capital Sports.