Lionel Messi beat Robert Lewandowski to a record seventh Ballon d’Or after inspiring Argentina to Copa America glory but says he never expected to win this time.
The Ballon d’Or is voted for by 180 journalists from around the world, although there was no award in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo (five wins) collected the award every year from 2008 to 2019, apart from in 2018 when Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won it.
Messi had already won the trophy more times than any other player and his seventh success comes after wins in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019.
He said: “It is incredible to be here again. Two years ago I thought that it was my last year and now I am here again. I am very happy, very excited and wanting to fight for new challenges.
“I do not know how long I have left but I hope it will be a long time. I want to thank my teammates from Barcelona and PSG, and especially the Argentina team. I won this award and I had the feeling that I was missing something and this year I was able to achieve it.
“A large part of this trophy is because of what we did in the Copa America, so thanks to my teammates, this is also yours. My wife, my children, my father, my mother are here.
“It is a huge honor to fight with Robert [Lewandowski]. Last year you were the winner and I think France Football should give it to you.”
Alexia Putellas won the women’s Ballon d’Or award for the first time on Monday after an outstanding season with Barcelona and Spain.
The 27-year-old midfielder helped Barca win the treble and scored 26 goals and 16 assists in 42 games overall. She netted in the Champions League final against Chelsea, and in August she was named UEFA women’s player of the year.
“I’m very emotional, it’s a very special moment,” she said at the Paris ceremony through a translator. “I would like to start by thanking all my teammates, especially my current [Barcelona] teammates. For me it’s a collective success.”
Paris Saint-Germain’s Gianluigi Donnarumma has won the Lev Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper of the year. The 22-year-old goalkeeper becomes the second winner of the award which was introduced in 2019.
Top 10 players of the world in 2021, according to France Football:
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina, FC Barcelona/PSG)
2. Robert Lewandowski (Poland, Bayern Munich)
3. Jorginho (Italy, Chelsea)
4. Karim Benzema (France, Real Madrid)
5. N’Golo Kante (France, Chelsea)
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Juventus/Manchester United)
7. Mohamed Salah (Egypt, Liverpool)
8. Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium, Manchester City)
9. Kylian Mbappe (France, PSG)
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy, AC Milan/PSG)
2021 Ballon D’or
Striker of the year
Women’s Ballon D’Or
Club of the Year