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.