Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi was awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or for a record-extending seventh time in a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday.
Messi, who led Argentina to Copa America success in Brazil in July for their first major trophy since 1993, spent the majority of 2020 at Barcelona before his 21-year stay at the club ended when he left on a free in August and joined PSG soon after.
He now has two more Ballon d’Or awards than Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, whose tally of five is two more than anyone else.
Messi added to his 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 trophies with the announcement on Monday.
“It’s incredible to be here again. Two years ago I thought it was the last time. Winning the Copa America was key,” Messi said. “It is a special year for me with this Copa America title. It meant a lot to win at the Maracana stadium and I was so happy to celebrate with the people from Argentina.
“I don’t know if it’s the best year of my life, I’ve had a long career, but it was a special one with the title with Argentina after the tough times and the criticism.”
Messi beat 29 other nominees for the award, including Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who was the favourite for last year’s prize before it was cancelled because of the lack of football during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski was nominated for the award again this year after he broke late Bayern legend Gerd Muller’s single-season Bundesliga goal record in May after he netted 41 league times last season, as well as winning the European Golden Shoe.
Although Lewandowski didn’t win the night’s biggest prize, he was named Striker of the Year at the ceremony and finished second to Messi on the final ballot.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho was also tipped for the award after winning last season’s Champions League with his club side before playing a crucial part in Italy’s triumph at Euro 2020.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were also nominated for the award.
AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was also a finalist for the Ballon d’Or best player, was named Goalkeeper of the Year.
Chelsea, whose men won the UEFA Champions League in 2021 and saw their women’s side win the Women’s Super League, were named Team of the Year, with managers Thomas Tuchel and Emma Hayes accepting the award remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Ballon d’Or is awarded annually by France Football, with FIFA’s The Best a separate honour handed out every year — Messi won that award for the first time in 2020.
Barca midfielder Pedri won the Kopa Trophy as Europe’s best young player, which comes just a week after he claimed the Golden Boy award.