April 25, 2024

Lionel Messi wins record eighth Ballon d'Or, acknowledges 'fortune' he's had

Lionel Messi wins record eighth Ballon d
Reuters/Stephanie Lecocq

(Reuters) - Argentina captain Lionel Messi won a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or for the best player in the world on Monday, beating Norway's UEFA Player of the Year and treble winner Erling Haaland of Manchester City to the prestigious prize.

Inter Miami's Messi, who last won the award in 2021, played a pivotal role in guiding Argentina to its first FIFA World Cup title in 36 years when they beat defending champion France in the final last year.

The 36-year-old is now three Ballons d'Or clear of rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the last of his five trophies in 2017. Messi has now finished among the top three a record 14 times in total, finishing runner-up on five occasions.

"I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved. The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies. To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing," Messi said.

"All of them (Ballon d'Or awards) are special for different reasons," he added.

Earlier, Messi's FIFA World Cup-winning teammate Emiliano Martinez won the Lev Yashin Award for the world's best goalkeeper. Spain's FIFA Women's World Cup winner and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati won the Women's Ballon d'Or.

Messi, who won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009 and claimed four in a row until 2012, finished second to Haaland at the UEFA awards in August.

Haaland, 23, was one of the firm favorites for his first Ballon d'Or after scoring 52 goals in 53 matches in all competitions last season as City won the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup.

But Argentina's magical run at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where Messi earned the Golden Ball for best overall player and Silver Boot (seven goals and three assists), helped him pip the Norwegian striker to the award.

The FIFA World Cup was the only major trophy missing from Messi's resume as Argentina made amends for losing the 2014 final to Germany while in March he became only the third player in history to score 100 international goals.

Messi also won the Ligue 1 title with Paris St. Germain before moving to Inter Miami, where he helped the Major League Soccer side win the Leagues Cup, the team's first major trophy.

Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player, while club teammate Vinicius Jr. was awarded the Socrates Award for his humanitarian work off the pitch.