Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the Ballon d’Or to win football’s most prestigious individual prize for a record sixth time. Megan Rapinoe won the women’s award, Alisson Becker won the best goalkeeper’s Yachine Award, and Matthijs de Ligt won the best young player’s Kopa Award.
Messi is the first player to win a sixth golden ball trophy, moving one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s haul of five. Ronaldo, who did not attend the ceremony in Paris, ranked third behind Van Dijk, and ahead of the defender’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane in fourth.
“It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural,” said Van Dijk, of Messi and Ronaldo. “So you need to respect greatness as well. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.
“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and Holland, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.”
Messi, 32, has enjoyed yet another impressive year for Barcelona, with the club currently top of the Spanish league after Messi won his 10th Liga title in May, but he suffered disappointment in the Copa del Rey final defeat by Valencia and was left stunned by Liverpool’s famous Champions League semi-final comeback at Anfield.
Last year’s winner Luka Modric presented Messi with the award. Suggestions 12 months ago that the Croatian midfielder might have brought down the curtain down on the Messi-Ronaldo decade of dominance evidently proved premature.
Messi remains capable of the spectacular despite his advancing years and the enormous volume of games he has played in his career so far, serving up yet another reminder on Sunday night with a sublime winning goal against Atletico Madrid. With his wife and sons in the audience, Messi thanked his family and his Barcelona teammates in a speech which must now be embedded in his memory.
Alisson lifted the inaugural Yachine Trophy to reward the top goalkeeper, beating Manchester City’s Ederson and Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with the Liverpool man also finishing seventh in the overall Ballon d’Or vote.
Megan Rapinoe won the Women’s Ballon d’Or after leading the United States to the Women’s World Cup title, scoring six goals and laying on three assists. England’s Lucy Bronze came second as the Lyon full-back starred in the Lionesses’ run to the semi-finals.
De Ligt starred as the teenage captain of the thrilling Ajax side which reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and, still aged only 20, has made an encouraging start to life at his new club Juventus.