Football

Lionel Messi wins sixth Ballon d’Or as Rapinoe takes women’s prize

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 yesterday morning (Singapore time), while United States World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe took the women's prize.

It is Messi's first Ballon d'Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football. I am aware of my age and these moments are all the more enjoyable because the moment when I have to retire is getting closer and that is difficult," Messi said on stage after receiving the award from last year's winner Luka Modric.

"I hope to keep enjoying my football, my family, facing my rivals and the life that I have."

The Barcelona No. 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.

Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019, and netted 36 times in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barca won the title. He was also the top scorer in last season's Champions League with 12 goals.

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.

Van Dijk's clubmate Alisson won the Goalkeeper of the Year award, a new prize named after former USSR icon Lev Yashin.

This is just the second year that a women's Ballon d'Or has been awarded, with Rapinoe succeeding Norway's Ada Hegerberg.

Rapinoe was the star of the Women's World Cup, winning the Golden Boot for top scorer, with six goals, and Golden Ball for Best Player.

Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, the ex-Ajax Amsterdam star now at Juventus, succeeded Kylian Mbappe as the winner of the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21. - AFP

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