The Ballon d’Or awarded for the eighth time to Messi

In the twilight of a prodigious career, Lionel Messi was in the spotlight for the eighth time during the Ballon d’Or ceremony, Monday at the Châtelet theater in Paris, where Spain’s Aitana Bonmati made her entrance into the pantheon soccer

And in the end it is Messi who wins: crowned world champion for the first time at the end of 2022 in Qatar, author of seven goals during the tournament, including a brace in the final, the 36-year-old Argentine advanced. Norwegian Erling Haaland and French Kylian Mbappé on the podium.

After 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 with Barça and in 2021 already in the colors of PSG, Messi adds another line to an impressive record that he completed in 2021 and 2022 with a first Copa América and, hence the global grail. .

Their young runners-up, aged 23 and 24, however, had their share of arguments. Scoring 52 goals in 53 games in his first year in England, Haaland gave Manchester City their first Champions League, but also the Premier League and FA Cup to complete a brilliant treble.

World runner-up with France, Mbappé finished top scorer in the competition (8), one ahead of Messi, including a classy hat-trick in the final. Champions of France with PSG, Mbappé like Messi, however, failed in the Champions League.

But it was the Dantesque final of the World Cup, on December 18 at the Lusail stadium, and its outcome (3-3, 4-2 in the tabloids) that made the difference for “Pulga”, who improve your record with now. three Ballon d’Or more than Cristiano Ronaldo (5).

The outcome of the final and, therefore, of this Ballon d’Or could have been different without Emiliano Martínez, author of a decisive save against the French Randal Kolo Muani and chosen on Monday as the best goalkeeper of the season (Yachine Trophy). Author of a clown celebration after the world title, he was booed by the theater audience.

Bellingham, best young man

Since 2008 (Ronaldo’s first trophy) and 2009 (Messi’s first), the two ogres of world football have cannibalized the France Football prize: only Luka Modric in 2018 and Benzema last year picked up the crumbs.

Time will tell if this umpteenth individual reward is the last for the man who now plays in the MLS at Inter Miami, in a far less competitive league.

Even so, the son of Rosario is still hungry: Messi (178 games, 106 goals) plans to participate in the Copa America 2024. His swan song. Unless he pushes until the 2026 World Cup…

If football sees the end of the Messi-Ronaldo era, the succession is assured with Haaland and Mbappé, the two top scorers of the season with 56 and 54 goals respectively for club and national team.

Paying tribute to past glories Pelé, Luis Suarez and Bobby Charlton, who died in recent months, the ceremony also outlined the future through England’s 20-year-old Jude Bellingham, voted best youngster of the year ( Kopa Trophy) two days after his double with Real Madrid, his new club, during the Barcelona Classic (2-1).

Bonmati, the obvious

Among the women, Spain’s Aitana Bonmati was crowned for the first time, aged 25, succeeding double winner and teammate in the national team and Barça Alexia Putellas.

Another proof of the current dominance of Spain, winner of the 2023 World Cup, and of the Catalan club, which won the 2023 and 2021 Champions League.

In these two competitions, the midfielder was chosen best player, thanks mainly to five goals in the Champions League and three in the World Cup.

Named by Pep Guardiola who dubbed her “the Iniesta of women’s football”, the Villanova and Geltrú player, near Barcelona, ​​has also won the last four Spanish championships. The one who grew up admiring the great Barça and the great Spain of the turn of the 2010s has in recent years made the women’s section of her club a big one in Europe. And his dream came true.

Just as combative off the pitch, Bonmati has been involved in helping refugees in the past. Voted UEFA Player of the Year in August, she dedicated her trophy to teammate Jenni Hermoso, who was given a surprise kiss after the world title by former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales.

Rubiales was banned for three years from all football-related activities by FIFA on Monday and announced he would appeal the decision.

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