October 31 – Argentine legend Lionel Messi won the men’s Ballon d’Or for a record-extending eighth time on Monday after fulfilling a lifetime ambition to lead his country to the World Cup title.
Five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who now plays in Saudi Arabia, was not even shortlisted – for the first time since 2003 – as Messi took the top honour among the seven awards up for grabs at a star-studded ceremony in Paris.
Messi collected the one major trophy that had eluded him despite a relatively underwhelming season at Paris St. Germain by his own high standards before moving to Inter Miami to finish his career.
Messi, now 36, previously won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021. Manchester City’s Norwegian forward Erling Haaland came second and French superstar Kylian Mbappe third despite becoming only the second man in history to score a World Cup final hat-trick.
“It’s a pleasure that will never leave me, and I hope to be able to enjoy it for many years to come,” Messi , who scored twice in the World Cup final in Qatar, said through a translator. “Becoming world champion was the title we were missing. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make Argentina the world champion team.”
Messi’s award marked the first time a Major League Soccer-based player has received such recognition and it was apt that he received the trophy from former Manchester United and England icon David Beckham, one of the owners of his new club.
Aitana Bonmati won the women’s award for guiding Spain to victory at the Women’s World Cup in August. She also helped Barcelona win the Women’s Champions League and Spanish league.
“We are a country that lives football, intensely,” Bonmati said. “We have a unique talent in Spain.”
The Kopa Trophy for the best young player went to Real Madrid’s sensational 20-year-old English midfield ace Jude Bellingham who cost £88.5m move during the summer. The Lev Yashin Trophy for the world’s best keeper was won by Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez who received a number of catcalls from the predominantly French audience on a night that was supposed to be all about congratulatory accolades.
The Gerd Muller Trophy for the best striker went to Haaland for his 52 goals in all competitions during Manchester City’s treble-winning season while City and Barcelona took the men’s and women’s team prizes respectively.
The Socrates Award, which recognises humanitarian work, went to Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr.
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