Argentina captain Lionel Messi won a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world on Monday, beating Norway’s UEFA player of the year and treble winner Erling Haaland of Manchester City to the prestigious prize.

Inter Miami’s Messi, who last won the award in 2021, played a pivotal role in guiding Argentina to their first World Cup title in 36 years when they beat defending champions France in the final last year.

The 36-year-old is now three Ballons d’Or clear of rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the last of his five trophies in 2017. Messi has now finished among the top three a record 14 times in total, finishing runner-up on five occasions.

“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved. 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,” Messi said.

“All of them (Ballon d’Or awards) are special for different reasons,” he added.

Other winners

Earlier, Messi’s World Cup-winning team mate Emiliano Martinez won the Lev Yashin award for the world’s best goalkeeper. Spain’s Women’s World Cup winner and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati won the women’s Ballon d’Or.

Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009 and claimed four in a row until 2012, finished second to Haaland at the UEFA awards in August.

Haaland, 23, was one of the firm favourites for his first Ballon d’Or after scoring 52 goals in 53 matches in all competitions last season as City won the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland after being awarded the Gerd Muller Award.
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

But Argentina’s magical run at the World Cup in Qatar, where Messi earned the Golden Ball for best overall player and Silver Boot (seven goals and three assists), helped him pip the Norwegian striker to the award.

The World Cup was the only major trophy missing from Messi’s resume as Argentina made amends for losing the 2014 final to Germany while in March he became only the third player in history to score 100 international goals.

Messi also won the Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain before moving to Inter Miami, where he helped the Major League Soccer side win the Leagues Cup — their first major trophy.

Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior

Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham won the Kopa Trophy for the best Under-21 player, while club team mate Vinicius Jr. was awarded the Socrates Award for his humanitarian work off the pitch.

Women’s Ballon d’Or win testimony to Spain’s football culture, says Bonmati
FC Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati after winning the women’s Ballon d’Or

FC Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati after winning the women’s Ballon d’Or
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

Winning the women’s Ballon d’Or is a testimony to Spain’s football culture, this year’s winner Aitana Bonmati said after her triumph kept the trophy in the country for the third year in a row on Monday.

Bonmati, a Champions League winner with Barcelona and World Cup winner with Spain, succeeds fellow Spaniard Alexia Putellas, who was also the 2021 winner.

“Spain has something unique. In recent years we have achieved a lot with our clubs and the national team,” Bonmati told reporters.

“It says a lot that we won the Ballon d’Or three times in a row. We are a country that lives football, and we work hard every day to be the best.”

While she has now won the biggest titles in the sport, Bonmati still has the sparkle and motivation to reach new heights.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I’m nervous. I haven’t slept for a few days. Being at the great gala of world football is unique and to be valued,” the 25-year-old said.

“I play for a big club and for the national team. In both I have the best players and coaches. With the club we’ve been reaching the Champions League final for three years in a row, which is difficult and says a lot about the mentality we have.

“I’m confident… we’re going to win more titles.