Inter Miami CF star Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for a record eighth time, fighting off rivalry from Manchester City striker Erling Haaland subsequent to leading Argentina to the World Cup the year before.
Messi, 36, becomes the first MLS-based player to guarantee the sought after prize, although the win comes generally on the back of his efforts with his country in Qatar. Former Manchester United player and Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham handed over the award to Messi in Paris.
Haaland, who scored 52 goals last season as City won the treble in 2022-23, completed second in the voting and won the Gerd Muller Prize given to the best striker of the year.
“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved,” Messi said after getting his award. “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. All of them [Ballon d’Or awards] are special for different reasons.”
Before Messi accepting his prize, Barcelona and Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmatí won the Ballon d’Or Féminin following a record-breaking year with club and country. She assisted Barça with winning Liga F and the Champions League last season, prior to driving Spain to World Cup magnificence in the late spring.
In other awards, Messi’s Argentina colleague Emiliano Martinez won the Yashin Prize for best goalkeeper and England and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham was given the Kopa Prize as the world’s top player younger than 21.
During his acknowledgment speech, Messi tried wishing Argentina comrade Diego Maradona happy birthday. The 1986 World Cup winner, who died on November 22, 2020, would have been 63 on Monday.
“My last mention is for Diego [Maradona],” Messi said. “Today is his birthday. So I would like to remember him from here, surrounded by the best players, coaches and people who love football like he did.
“Wherever you are, Diego, happy birthday. This goes also to you.”
Indeed, even preceding Monday’s ceremony in Paris, no player had won the Ballon d’Or a greater number of times than Messi, who originally won it in 2009 and again in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo has won it eight times, while Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten are every one of the three-time winners.
Messi scored 21 goals in 41 appearances last season as PSG held the Ligue 1 title prior to moving to Inter Miami recently.
Since moving to the U.S., he has scored 11 goals in 14 games for Miami, assisting the team with winning its very first piece of silverware, the League’s Cup.
However, he missed several matches through injury at the end of the regular MLS season as Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side came up short in their late push for a playoff spot.
It is Messi’s performances at the World Cup at the end of 2022 which have earned him an eighth Ballon d’Or, though, as Argentina ended a 36-year wait to be crowned world champions for the third time.
Messi, as captain, was instrumental to Argentina’s success in Qatar, scoring seven goals and assisting three more as he was named as the Player of the Tournament.
He scored twice in the final and again in the penalty shootout against France as Lionel Scaloni’s team edged one of the most memorable showpieces in the competition’s history.
Having missed the mark with Argentina at four past World Cups, including losing the 2014 final to Germany, it was considered by a lot of people to be his last opportunity to get his hands on football’s greatest award.
At 36 years and four months old, he additionally becomes the second oldest player to at any point win the Ballon d’Or, replacing last year’s winner Karim Benzema. Only the inaugural winner, Stanley Matthews in 1956, was older when he won it aged 41.
Messi’s first six Ballons d’Or were won while he played for Barcelona, where he is the club’s record goalscorer and appearance holder, while he won it for a seventh time shortly after joining PSG in 2021 following Copa America success with Argentina.