After leading Argentina to the World Cup last year, Lionel Messi of Inter Miami CF defeated Erling Haaland of Manchester City to win the Ballon d’Or for a record eighth time.
36-year-old Messi became the first player from the Major League Soccer (MLS) to win the coveted award, but his success is primarily due to his exploits in Qatar with his national team. David Beckham, a co-owner of Inter Miami and a former Manchester United player, presented Messi with the accolade in Paris.
Haaland, who led City to victory in the 2022–2023 Treble with 52 goals, came in second in the poll and took home the Gerd Muller Trophy, which is awarded to the finest 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.”
Aitana Bonmatí, a midfielder for Barcelona and Spain, won the Ballon d’Or Féminin before Messi did, capping an incredible year for both her club and her country. Before guiding Spain to World Cup victory in the summer, she assisted Barça in winning Liga F and the Champions League the previous season.
Other honors presented on Monday were Jude Bellingham, a midfielder for Real Madrid and England, winning the Kopa Trophy as the greatest player under the age of twenty-one, and Emiliano Martinez, Messi’s teammate from Argentina, winning the Yashin Trophy for best goalie.
Messi made it a point to wish Diego Maradona, his compatriot from Argentina, a happy birthday during his victory speech. On Monday, the 1986 World Cup winner, who passed away on November 22, 2020, would have turned 63.
“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.”
No player had ever won the Ballon d’Or as many times as Messi, who first took home the award in 2009 and then again in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021.
Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Michel Platini, and Cristiano Ronaldo have each won it three times, with Ronaldo having won it five times.
Prior to joining Inter Miami earlier this year, Messi scored 21 goals in 41 games as Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 championship the previous season.
He has 11 goals in 14 games for Miami since coming to the United States, and he helped the team win its first-ever trophy, the Leagues Cup.
He did, however, miss a number of games due to injury during the close of the regular MLS season, when Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s team failed in their last-ditch attempt to secure a playoff berth.
Messi’s World Cup exploits at the end of 2022, however, are what secured him his eighth Ballon d’Or as Argentina won the world championship for the third time in 36 years.
Argentina’s victory in Qatar was greatly aided by Messi, who led the team with seven goals and three assists while winning Player of the Tournament.
As Lionel Scaloni’s squad prevailed in one of the most famous showpieces in the competition’s history, he scored twice in the championship game and once more in the penalty shootout against France.
After Argentina had lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany and had failed in the previous four World Cups, many believed it to be his final chance to win the largest trophy in football.
He replaces last year’s winner Karim Benzema to become the second-oldest player to win the Ballon d’Or at the age of 36 years and four months. The only champion who was older when he won it was Stanley Matthews in 1956, who was 41 years old.
Messi won the Ballon d’Or for a seventh time shortly after joining PSG in 2021 after Argentina’s Copa America victory. His previous six Ballon d’Or victories came while he was a player for Barcelona, where he holds the record for both goals scored and appearances.