Lionel Messi has won a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or title after taking out the prestigious award on Tuesday morning.
Robert Lewandowski was considered a strong chance of denying Messi the honour after a record-breaking campaign.
The Bayern Munich and Poland striker scored a Bundesliga record 41 goals in just 29 games last season to better the record set by the late Gerd Mueller.
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Messi, meanwhile, has had a disrupted year after moving to Paris Saint-Germain but had 30 league goals in his final season at Barcelona along with a win at the Copa del Rey.
He could also lean on Argentina’s victory at the Copa America as evidence of his credentials for the award.
“It is incredible to be here again,” Messi said after accepting the award.
“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.”
Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have now combined to win 12 of the past 13 editions of the Ballon d’Or but missed out this time around.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, was not expected to take out the award this time around and was not in attendance on Tuesday.
He finished sixth in the polling, the first time since 2010 he had ranked outside the top three.
The Manchester United superstar skipped the ceremony in Paris and revealed on Instagram why he opted against attending the prestigious event.
Ronaldo took to Instagram lash out at Pascal Ferre – the man responsible for the award – following claims his only career goal was to have more Ballon d’Or trophies than Lionel Messi.
1ST – Lionel Messi (613 points)
2nd – Robert Lewandowski (580)
3rd – Jorginho (460)
4th – Karim Benzema (239)
5th – N’Golo Kante (186)
6th- Cristiano Ronaldo (178)
7th – Mohamed Salah (121)
8th – Kevin De Bruyne (73)
9th – Kylian Mbappe (58)
10th – Gianluigi Donnarumma (36)
KERR’S BEST FINISH AS BARCA STAR TAKES OUT WOMEN’S PRIZE
Meanwhile, Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women’s Ballon d’Or prize, completing a remarkable year for the 27-year-old.
Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.
The 2020 Ballon d’Or awards were cancelled because of the pandemic. Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.
She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.
Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Australian Sam Kerr of Chelsea coming in third.
It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body
BEST YOUNG GUN, GOALKEEPER NAMED
Earlier, Spain starlet Pedri won the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21 while Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma was named the best goalkeeper.
Barcelona midfielder Pedri, who only turned 19 last week, was a key player for Spain as they reached the semi-finals of the European Championship and featured in their side that lost in the men’s Olympic football final against Brazil in Tokyo.
In addition he played 52 games for Barcelona, helping them win the Copa del Rey. Pedri, who joined Barca from Las Palmas last year, recently extended his contract at the Camp Nou to 2026.
The Kopa Trophy is named after Raymond Kopa, the Real Madrid and France star of the post-war era who won the Ballon d’Or in 1958.
France forward Kylian Mbappe was the inaugural winner of the prize in 2018, and Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus and the Netherlands won it in 2019.
There was no Ballon d’Or awards ceremony last year because of the pandemic. Donnarumma won the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper after his outstanding performances in Italy’s glorious Euro 2020 campaign.
The 22-year-old left AC Milan for Paris Saint-Germain following the European Championship.
Liverpool and Brazil star Alisson was the first winner in 2019 of the Yashin Trophy, named after former USSR icon Lev Yashin.
FULL LIST OF WINNERS:
Ballon d’Or — Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain
Ballon d’Or Feminin — Alexia Putellas, Barcelona
Kopa Trophy (Best player under 21) — Pedri, Barcelona
Striker of the Year — Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich
Yashin Trophy (goalkeeper of the year) — Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain