Lionel Messi: Winning eighth Ballon d’Or a dream come true

Lionel Messi said that winning the eighth Ballon d’Or of his storied career on the back of Argentina’s World Cup success was a “dream come true”.

Messi, 36, succeeded Karim Benzema as the winner of the prize, awarded on the back of his performances last season when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar.

“The last one I won was also thanks to what we achieved with the Argentine national team in the Copa America [in 2021], but this one is much more special because it comes after we won the World Cup,” Messi told reporters after collecting his award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday.

“That is the trophy everyone wants to win the most, and it was a dream come true for me, my teammates and my country.”

He dragged Argentina to a victory in Qatar that crowned his remarkable career and allowed him to see off stiff competition for the Ballon d’Or from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.

Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin de Bruyne in fourth place.

Former Barcelona superstar Messi scored seven times at the World Cup and was named the tournament’s best player after Argentina beat France on penalties in the final in Doha.

“Tonight I’m enjoying myself. It’s a pleasure that will never leave me, and I hope to be able to enjoy it for many years to come,” Messi said.

“Becoming world champion was the title we were missing. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make Argentina the world champion team.”

Messi also paid tribute to the late Diego Maradona, who also helped Argentina win the World Cup, back in 1986.

“This title and this trophy,” Messi said, “I share them with you and all our Argentina comrades.”

Yet Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, also had an underwhelming final season at Paris Saint-Germain, before leaving to play for Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

He played down suggestions he could come back for another Ballon d’Or, possibly after the next World Cup in 2026, when he will be 39.

“I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day-to-day at the moment,” he said.

“We have a Copa America coming up in the United States, where I am now, in which we are the holders, so I am looking forward to coming into that in good shape and then just see how I am getting on from there.”

Nobody else has won more than five Ballon d’Or. Cristiano Ronaldo has five, and Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten each won it three times.

Since moving to Inter Miami in the United States, Messi has already picked up his first silverware, inspiring the team to victory in the US Leagues Cup.

Messi’s latest win marked the first time a Major League Soccer-based player got such recognition. Messi received the trophy from former Manchester United star David Beckham, who is one of the owners of his new club.

“I’m very happy with the decisions I’ve made and to be with Miami,” Messi said.

Aitana Bonmati won the women’s award for guiding Spain to victory at the Women’s World Cup in August. She also helped Barcelona win the Women’s Champions League and Spanish league.

Bonmati had already been awarded Uefa Best Women’s Player and the Golden Ball for the top Women’s World Cup player. She scored three times and assisted twice at the tournament.

She followed in the footsteps of her teammate Alexia Putellas, who took the past two awards.

Bonmati won ahead of Sam Kerr and Salma Paralluelo.

“We are a country that lives football, intensely,” Bonmati said. “We have a unique talent in Spain.”

For the first time last year, the trophy awarded by France Football magazine was based on achievements from the past season. It was previously awarded based on performances through a calendar year. Stanley Matthews won the first Ballon d’Or in 1956.

The women’s trophy was created in 2018. Both awards were cancelled in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.

Updated: October 31, 2023, 11:41 AM

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