Lionel Messi said he hoped to carry on undimmed by age after claiming a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at the age of 32 in Paris on Monday, while USA World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe took the women’s prize.
Rapinoe was not at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital, unable to make the trip back to the country where she led the USA to victory in July.
However, Messi was there with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, and two of their children. It is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d’Or here 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 on stage after receiving the award from last year’s winner Luka Modric.
“I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football. I am aware of the age I have and these moments are all the more enjoyable because the moment when I have to retire is getting closer and that is difficult.
“All going well I’ll have several years left but at the moment time seems to be flying and everything is happening very quickly.
“I hope to keep enjoying my football, my family, facing my rivals and all of this life that I have.”
The Barcelona number 10 won this year’s prize – organised by France Football magazine and voted for by a panel of journalists from around the world – ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, with Ronaldo third.
It is the first time since 2010 that Ronaldo has failed to rank in the top two.
Having starred in the Liverpool team that won the Champions League, Van Dijk finished second to Messi just as he did in the voting for FIFA’s equivalent prize, The Best, in September.
“Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him who are a bit unnatural. Six times Ballon d’Or – you need to respect greatness as well,” said Van Dijk.
The winners and other top finishers in the four trophies awarded at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony on Monday in Paris:
Men’s Ballon d’Or
1. Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
2. Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus)
4. Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool)
5. Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
Women’s Ballon d’Or
1. Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC)
2. Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon)
3. Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
4. Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon)
5. Viviane Miedema (NED/Arsenal