Srinagar: Argentina Superstar footballer Lionel Messi has bagged record eight Ballon d´Or award and dedicated the trophy to late legend Diego Maradona in a ceremony held in Paris on Monday while Spain´s World Cup-winning star Aitana Bonmati took the women´s prize.
For Messi, winning last year´s World Cup in Qatar was crowning moment of his astonishing career, and it allowed him to see off stiff competition, in particular from Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, to take the award on the stage of the Chatelet Theatre in Paris.
“This is a gift to the whole Argentina team for what we achieved,” said Messi on stage after receiving his award from David Beckham, the co-owner of Inter Miami.
Messi dedicated the trophy to late Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who would have celebrated his 63rd birthday on Monday.
“Happy birthday Diego. This is for you too,” he said.
Messi benefits from a recent change which means the award is based on a player´s record over the last season, rather than over the calendar year.
He won despite an underwhelming final season at PSG, even if he was a Ligue 1 title winner.
Mbappe was the star player in that team, scoring 41 goals, and was also the World Cup´s top scorer with eight goals, including a hat-trick in the final which France lost to Argentina on penalties.
Yet he fell just short for the Ballon d´Or, finishing third, while Norway striker Haaland came second after scoring 52 goals in 53 games for the Manchester City team that won the treble of English Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
Messi is 36 and won his first Ballon d´Or in 2009. With eight, he is now three ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the next most decorated player in the history of the award.
It remains to be seen if Messi will again feature in the running for the prize, which is voted for by one journalist in each of the top 100 nations in the FIFA ranking.
“I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day to day at the moment,” he said.
Messi will struggle to hold off the next wave of superstars, led by Mbappe, Haaland and Real Madrid´s Jude Bellingham, but his World Cup performances made his victory this time feel inevitable.
The women´s prize seemed even more clear cut, as Bonmati was rewarded for starring as Spain won the World Cup in Australia in August.
The 25-year-old midfielder was named the best player at the World Cup as the Spanish team overcame off-field turbulence, including protests against their national federation and coach Jorge Vilda, to lift the trophy.