Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Lionel Messi still has 'several years left' at the top after Barcelona superstar claims record sixth Ballon d'Or

Liverpool defender Van Dijk beaten into second, while Megan Rapinoe wins the women's award

Lionel Messi has warned his rivals he still has "several years left" at the top after the Barcelona superstar won a record sixth Ballon d'Or in Paris on Monday, while USA captain Megan Rapinoe claimed the women's award.

A decade after winning his first award, 32-year-old Messi moved one ahead of his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who was conspicuous by his absence, preferring instead to remain in Italy where the Juventus forward attended the Gran Gala del Calcio to collect his Serie A best player award.

Rapinoe was also not at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital, unable to make the trip back to the country where she led the USA to victory in July.

"It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d'Or here in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers, I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through," said Messi, who was there with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, and two of their children.

"I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football. I am aware of the age I have and these moments are all the more enjoyable because the moment when I have to retire is getting closer and that is difficult.

"All going well I'll have several years left but at the moment time seems to be flying and everything is happening very quickly. I hope to keep enjoying my football, my family, facing my rivals and all of this life that I have."

Messi won this year's prize, which is organised by France Football magazine and voted for by journalists from around the world, ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Having starred in the Liverpool team that won the Champions League, Van Dijk finished behind Messi just as he did in the voting for Fifa's equivalent prize, The Best, in September.

"Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him who are a bit unnatural. Six times Ballon d'Or - you need to respect greatness as well," said Van Dijk.

The Dutch defender was one of four Liverpool players in the top 10, with Sadio Mane fourth, Mohamed Salah fifth and goalkeeper Alisson seventh. The latter won a new prize for the goalkeeper of the year, named after former Russian goalkeeping great Lev Yashin.

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Men's Ballon d'Or top-10 in pictures

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Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019, and netted 36 times in total in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barcelona won the title.

He did not enjoy a successful Copa America with Argentina but was also the top scorer in last season's Champions League with 12 goals.

As if any reminder of his brilliance were required, on Sunday he scored a wonderful late winner for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid.

This is just the second year that a women's Ballon d'Or - voted for by 48 journalists - has been awarded, with Rapinoe succeeding Norway's Ada Hegerberg.

Rapinoe was the star of the Women's World Cup on, and off, the field, winning the Golden Boot for top scorer, with six goals, and Golden Ball for best player.

A video of Megan Rapinoe is displayed during the Ballon d'Or ceremony where she won best female player. AFP
A video of Megan Rapinoe is displayed during the Ballon d'Or ceremony where she won best female player. AFP

She scored the opening goal as the USA beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final, and has led calls for her team to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

"It's been an incredible year," said Rapinoe in a recorded video message. "I want to say a huge thank you to my teammates, 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 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, who finished third on Monday. England's Lucy Bronze came second.

Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, the former Ajax captain now at Juventus, succeeded Kylian Mbappe as the winner of the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21.

Updated: December 3, 2019 01:34 PM

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