For a record sixth time, Argentine footballer Lionel Messi was awarded the men's Ballon d'Or award at a ceremony in Paris. There are 30 nominees in total for the prize, organised by France Football magazine and voted for by 180 journalists from around the world. Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk came in a close second, while Portuguese footballer, and five-time winner, Cristiano Ronaldo came in third. French sensation Kylian Mbappe was ranked sixth, Portugal's Bernardo Silva in ninth, Brazil's Alisson Becker in seventh and Egypt's Mohammed Salah came in fifth. Senegal's Sadio Mane was ranked fourth, and Poland's Robert Lewandowski came in eighth. Croatian mid-fielder Luka Modric won the prize in 2018.
"It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d'Or in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers. I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through," Messi said, reported NDTV. "I am aware of my age, but I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football and doing this."
In women's football, United States World Cup icon Megan Rapinoe was awarded the Ballon d'Or prize. Rapinoe succeeded Norway's Ada Hegerberg, the inaugural winner of the women's prize last year, after starring on and off the field as the US retained the World Cup in France in July.
Messi and Rapinoe were the front-runners for the honours. 32-year-old Messi top-scored in La Liga last season with 36 goals as Barcelona won the title. He did not have a great Copa America with Argentina, but his genius is undeniable. Rapinoe, the 34-year-old feminist icon, won the Golden Boot winner for top scorer and Golden Ball for best player at the World Cup. Earlier, a leaked photo showing the 2019 Ballon d'Or winner, along with the number of points after tallying of the votes, did the rounds on social media and had gone viral. The results are not revealed before the ceremony, and the photo was later proven to be a hoax.