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Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, while Megan Rapinoe won the women’s title.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was second in the polling, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who shared the record of five Ballon d’Ors with Messi until Monday.
Messi’s and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the prestigious individual award organized by France Football magazine was ended last year by Luka Modric.
But Messi was back on top of his game over the past 12 months. Messi scored 36 times last season en route to the Spanish Liga title, and was the Champions League top scorer.
The Argentine has not showed any sign of slowing down since the start of the new European season, marking his 700th game for Barcelona last week with a goal and two assists in beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1.
Van Dijk clinched the 2019 Champions League crown with the Reds after defeating Messi’s Barcelona in the semifinals 4-3 on aggregate, included a 4-0 win at Anfield in the return match.
Messi also won his sixth FIFA award in September, edging Van Dijk, who missed the chance to become the first defender to top the France Football poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, in 2006.
The Liverpool center back was among seven teammates nominated, along with goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
‘An incredible year’
Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or for leading the United States to World Cup glory in July.
She scored six goals in the championship, earning her the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the top player.
Rapinoe, 34, succeeds Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, the inaugural winner of the women’s prize last year.
“It’s been an incredible year,” said Rapinoe in a recorded video message having been unable to return to France to collect her award due to playing commitments.
“I want to say a huge thank you to my team-mates, the coaches, the US Soccer Federation, for all of the support to allow me to be who I am and do what I do on the field but also be the person who I am off the field.”
Rapinoe, who plays club football for Reign FC in the US, added: “I’m so sorry I can’t be there. I was looking forward to mixing it up with everyone but I’ll do my best to get back there next year.”
Rapinoe was one of four members of the US side that lifted the World Cup to be nominated for the prize, along with Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan.
The latter finished in third place for the award organised by magazine France Football and voted for by a panel of 48 journalists.
France Football magazine has been awarding the Ballon d’Or since 1956 and created a women’s award for the first time last year when Norway’s Ada Hegerberg won it. Hegerberg was fourth this time.
Juventus defender Mattis De Light won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player, and the inaugural Yashin Trophy given to the year’s best men’s goalkeeper went to Liverpool’s Alisson.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)