BREAKING: Lionel Messi wins record sixth ballon D’or award

– and Megan Rapinoe is rewarded for World Cup triumph

Lionel Messi regained the Ballon d’Or crown in Paris last night, moving ahead of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo to take a record sixth award.

Barcelona’s 32-year-old superstar held off the challenge of Liverpool centre-back Virgil Van Dijk, who recognised he had been beaten by “someone a little bit better” as he settled for second place.

Megan Rapinoe of the United States won the women’s award, with England’s Lucy Bronze the runner-up.

Rapinoe, 34, co-captained the US to victory at this summer’s World Cup, where she was named player of the tournament and finished joint-top scorer with six goals.

Megan Rapinoe accepts the women’s award via a pre-recorded message CREDIT: AP

Messi, meanwhile, struck 54 goals for club and country last year, and found the net nine times in seven games in October and November.

The Argentine, who attended with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo and his two sons Thiago and Mateo, quickly emerged as favourite for the award after Ronaldo failed to show up to the event.

Messi last won the prize in 2015, with Ronaldo (twice) and Luka Modric taking the title inbetween. “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.”

The award furthers Messi’s claim to be considered the greatest of all time as well as adding another chapter to a glory-laden career. Despite stuttering in the Champions League, playing a part in that famous collapse at Anfield against eventual winners Liverpool, Messi produced another year full of important contributions as Barcelona won La Liga.

The Argentine attacker hit 51 goals in 50 appearances in 2018-19, taking the award for top scorer in Spain in the process.

Ronaldo instead went to an evening in Milan to celebrate the best of Italian football. His Juventus teammate Matthijs de Ligt was in Paris and represented the Italian champions as he was crowned Under-21 Player of the Year, edging out Jadon Sancho and Joao Felix.

Liverpool, after winning the Champions League against Tottenham in Madrid on June 1, boasted more players in the top 10 than any other side, with four players finishing in the top seven.

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Goalkeeper Alisson Becker came seventh – but won the new Yachine Trophy for Goalkeeper of the Year – while Mohamed Salah came fifth, Sadio Mane came fourth and Van Dijk finished as runner-up, capping off a fine year for him individually and Liverpool as a team.

Messi a deserved winner

While it would have been nice to see a defender given the accolade for the first time this decade, few can really argue with Lionel Messi winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time.

Where Van Dijk has been incomparable at centre-back for Liverpool and was a huge factor in them winning the Champions League, Messi scored 51 goals in 50 appearances for Barcelona last season and that is simply otherworldly.

The Ballon d’Or has always favoured goalscorers over defenders, but Messi remains a genuine phenomenon and that has been reflected in the result.

Telegraph

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