Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi wins record sixth award and Megan Rapinoe is rewarded for World Cup triumph

Lionel Messi has beaten Virgil van Dijk to the men’s Ballon d’Or
Lionel Messi has beaten Virgil van Dijk to the men’s Ballon d’Or Credit: Rex

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

And that’s a wrap!

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.

Fourth, third and second go to...

Sadio Mane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk respectively.

Slightly awkward handover...

The Messi love-in begins

Fun stat

The big moment

Lionel Messi is the men’s Ballon d’Or winner!

We could pretend that it’s a surprise, but it really isn’t.

Hat tip to Lucy Bronze

Remember the wondergoal she scored against Norway at the Women’s World Cup? She deserved to be in contention for that alone, honestly.

Back to the men’s rankings

Kylian Mbappe comes in sixth, while Mohamed Salah is fifth.

Accolades pour in for Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe wins women’s Ballon d’Or

It’s the result which everyone was expecting.

Having won the Women’s World Cup in the summer with the USA, Rapinoe gets her hands on the award. England defender Lucy Bronze comes in second, while USA striker Alex Morgan is third.

Alisson ranked seventh for men’s Ballon d’Or

... as well as winning the Yachine Trophy. Not a bad night, all told.

Shall we watch some of Alisson’s best saves?

Oh, go on then. 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ederson are runners-up

Alisson winning it over Ederson? Ah well, we needed at least one Twitter-melting controversy.

Alisson wins the Yachine Trophy

... as awarded for the first time to the best-performing goalkeeper.

The trophy is named after Lev Yashin, the legendary Soviet Union keeper of the 1950s and 60s.

Not sure that’s how it works...

Here comes the men’s Ballon d’Or countdown...

Riyad Mahrez is 10th, Bernardo Silva is ninth and Robert Lewandowski is eighth.

Mahrez won a domestic treble with Manchester City and the Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria. Silva was another top performer for City and won the Uefa Nations League with Portugal. Lewandowski, meanwhile, has been in superhuman scoring form for Bayern Munich. Nothing new there, then.

Sancho narrowly misses out

Matthijs de Ligt just edged out Jadon Sancho to the Kopa Trophy, having helped Ajax to a domestic double and the semi-finals of the Champions League last season before joining Juventus in the summer for £67.5m.

Sancho tore it up for Borussia Dortmund last term, though BVB ultimately didn’t win anything. Joao Felix came in third, having earned a big move from Benfica to Atletico Madrid.

And the winner of the 2019 Kopa Trophy is...

Luka Modric, Ada Hegerberg and Kylian Mbappe in the house

Modric won the 2018 men’s Ballon d’Or, Hegerberg won the women’s award, while Mbappe won the Kopa Trophy which is granted to the best-performing player under the age of 21.

That is a collection of seriously good footballers, right there.

Messi looking vaguely nervous

Probably no need, if we’re honest.

Everyone seems fairly confident that he’ll get his hands on the award for the sixth time.

Let’s meet our hosts for the evening

Stars arrive with the ceremony due to start in less than five minutes

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and his wife Rike Nooitgedagt Credit: REX
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi Credit: REX

 

There will be ‘ no losers’ this evening

Virgil Van Dijk’s hopes of winning the Ballon d’Or look to have been scuppered by Lionel Messi, but the Dutchman insists there will “no losers” at the ceremony on Monday.

The Liverpool centre-half is heading to the Paris presentation gala amid reports Barcelona’s Messi has already been informed that he has won the vote.

An apparently leaked document placed Messi first in the vote for the best player in the world, ahead of Van Dijk second and his Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah in third.

A victory for 32-year-old Messi would earn him the award for a record sixth time, one more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van Dijk has already won Uefa player of the year after a superb 12 months in which his side won the Champions League and now lead the Premier League by eight points. “There are no losers on that evening,” Van Dijk said. “I am very proud to be in that bracket, be in there for the way I performed with the team last year and also with the country. It is just something to be proud of because not a lot of players go there and are up for these kind of things. There are no losers that evening – we’ll see what happens.”

Megan Rapinoe, the United States talisman, is favourite to add the women’s Ballon d’Or to her World Cup winners’ medal from the summer. The 34-year-old had an outstanding tournament, also winning the Golden Boot for the top scorer and the Golden Ball for best player.

England’s Lucy Bronze, Holland striker Vivianne Miedema and Sam Kerr of Australia are among the other players shortlisted. Norway’s Ada Hegerberg will not retain her title after missing the World Cup.

By Chris Bascombe

Megan Rapinoe is expected to win the women’s Ballon d’Or Credit: AFP