Messi Wins 8th Ballon d’Or, Bonmati Claims Women’s Award

Lionel Messi Adds Eighth Ballon d’Or to His Collection

Lionel Messi has secured his position as one of football’s greatest players by winning the Ballon d’Or for an unprecedented eighth time. The 36-year-old claimed the prestigious award after leading Argentina to victory in the World Cup in Qatar last year, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. The triumph marked the one major trophy that had eluded Messi throughout his illustrious career and was the decisive factor in an otherwise relatively unremarkable season for him at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Messi was chosen as the winner ahead of Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and his former PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe. In his acceptance speech, Messi expressed his gratitude to his Argentina coach, teammates, and staff, acknowledging their contribution to his victory. He said, “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. 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 took the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Diego Maradona, who played a pivotal role in Argentina’s World Cup victory in 1986, saying, “This title and this trophy, I share them with you and all our Argentina comrades.”

In the women’s category, Aitana Bonmati was awarded the Ballon d’Or for her instrumental role in guiding Spain to victory at the Women’s World Cup in August. She also played a key part in helping Barcelona secure victory in the Women’s Champions League and the Spanish league. Bonmati’s remarkable achievements earned her the UEFA Best Women’s Player award and the Golden Ball for the top Women’s World Cup player. This year’s win follows in the footsteps of her teammate Alexia Putellas, who won the past two awards.

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Messi’s Ballon d’Or triumph comes a year after he missed out on the shortlist for the 2022 edition of the award. Despite leaving top-level European football behind and making the move to Inter Miami in the United States, Messi has reclaimed his crown. His exceptional performance in the World Cup played a significant role in his victory, with Messi contributing to 10 goals for Argentina, scoring seven and assisting three. He scored twice in the final against France.

However, despite his individual success, Messi’s final season at PSG was less fruitful. Although the Parisian club clinched their 11th French league title, their Champions League campaign ended disappointingly in the round of 16.

With his eighth Ballon d’Or win, Messi extends his lead over the competition. No other player has won the prestigious award more than five times. Cristiano Ronaldo follows closely behind with five wins, while Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten each have three victories to their names.

Since his move to Inter Miami, Messi has wasted no time in making an impact in the United States, already securing a silverware victory by inspiring the team to success in the U.S. Leagues Cup. This accolade marks the first time a Major League Soccer player has received such recognition. Messi was presented with the trophy by former Manchester United star David Beckham, who is one of the owners of Inter Miami. Reflecting on his decision to join the team, Messi expressed his delight, saying, “I’m very happy with the decisions I’ve made and to be with Miami.” He succeeds Karim Benzema as the recipient of the Ballon d’Or.

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Mbappe, who scored a hat trick in the World Cup final but saw France lose in a penalty shootout, had hoped that another Frenchman would win the Ballon d’Or. Meanwhile, Haaland led Manchester City to a treble of trophies last season, including the Champions League, English Premier League, and FA Cup, while netting an impressive 52 goals.

In addition to the main awards, the best under-21 player went to Jude Bellingham, and Haaland received the Gerd Müller award for the best striker of the year. The Lev Yashin award for the best goalkeeper was given to Emiliano Martinez. However, Martinez also faced jeers and whistles from the audience at the Theatre du Chatelet, which included Mbappe and France coach Didier Deschamps.

Vinicius Junior received the Socrates humanitarian prize for his involvement in the foundation he established for underprivileged children. The Real Madrid player, who has been a victim of racist abuse in the Spanish league, pledged to continue fighting against racism.

The Ballon d’Or trophy, previously awarded based on performances throughout a calendar year, was for the first time based on achievements from the past season. The inaugural Ballon d’Or was presented to Stanley Matthews in 1956. The women’s trophy was introduced in 2018, and both awards were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

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