Lionel Messi has secured his eighth Ballon d’Or, solidifying his status as one of the greatest players of all time. The Argentine maestro’s latest triumph comes after leading his national team to World Cup glory in Qatar last year, a feat that had eluded him for much of his illustrious career.
At 36 years old, Messi outshone 30 other contenders to clinch the coveted award, leaving Manchester City’s Erling Haaland in second place. The presentation, presided over by Inter Miami owner and football legend David Beckham, marked a poignant moment for the sport.
“This is a special moment. It’s incredible to be here once again, to have won the World Cup and fulfilled my dream,” Messi expressed, reflecting on his unparalleled journey through football.
A significant shift in this year’s Ballon d’Or landscape was the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo from the top contenders, signaling a potential turning point in the Messi-Ronaldo era. The Portuguese icon, a five-time winner himself, did not even make the shortlist for the first time in two decades.
On the women’s front, Spain’s Aitana Bonmatí of Barcelona claimed the Women’s Ballon d’Or. The 25-year-old midfielder’s exceptional year saw her secure the Primera Division, Women’s Champions League, and Supercopa de Espana with her club, followed by a standout performance in Spain’s victorious Women’s World Cup campaign.
While Bonmatí’s achievement was celebrated, controversy arose when tennis great Novak Djokovic presented her with the award. Djokovic, known for his controversial views on gender pay equity in tennis, sparked debates about the appropriateness of his role in the ceremony.
Messi took a moment to pay tribute to another Argentine legend, Diego Maradona, on what would have been his birthday. “This [award] is also for you, I share it with you and with all of Argentina,” Messi declared, honoring the enduring legacy of the soccer icon.
In a surprising turn of events, Messi bid farewell to European football at the close of the previous season, leaving Paris Saint-Germain to join MLS outfit Inter Miami. This move, coupled with his World Cup triumph, undoubtedly played a pivotal role in securing his eighth Ballon d’Or.