Lionel Messi, the star of Inter Miami CF, has clinched the Ballon d'Or for an unprecedented eighth time. He secured this honor by surpassing Manchester City striker Erling Haaland, thanks to his pivotal role in leading Argentina to victory in the World Cup last year.
At the age of 36, Messi has achieved the distinction of becoming the first MLS-based player to capture this prestigious award, even though the recognition primarily stems from his remarkable contributions to Argentina in Qatar. The honor was presented by David Beckham, a former Manchester United player and co-owner of Inter Miami, to his prized signing, Messi, in Paris.
"To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to make it happen is truly amazing. Each one of these Ballon d'Or awards holds a special place in my heart for different reasons," Messi added.
Before Messi was presented with his award, Aitana Bonmatí, the midfielder from Barcelona and Spain, earned the Ballon d'Or Féminin following an extraordinary year with both her club and the national team. She played a pivotal role in Barcelona's triumph in Liga F and the Champions League last season, and subsequently led Spain to World Cup victory during the summer.
On Monday, in addition to Messi's accolade, several other awards were presented. Messi's Argentine compatriot, Emiliano Martinez, received the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper, while England and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham was honored with the Kopa Trophy as the world's finest player under the age of 21.
In his acceptance speech, Messi took a moment to wish a happy birthday to his fellow countryman, Diego Maradona. The 1986 World Cup champion, who sadly passed away on November 22, 2020, would have turned 63 on that Monday.
"As a final tribute, I want to remember Diego [Maradona]," Messi stated. "Today is his birthday. So, I would like to pay homage to him from here, surrounded by the best players, coaches, and all the people who love football, just as he did."
Even before the ceremony in Paris on Monday, no player had achieved more Ballon d'Or wins than Messi. He initially secured the award in 2009, and then followed it up with victories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021.
Messi's initial six Ballon d'Or triumphs came during his tenure with Barcelona, where he holds the record for the most goals and appearances for the club. He secured his seventh Ballon d'Or shortly after joining PSG in 2021, following his success in the Copa America with the Argentina national team.