Lionel Messi keeps one-upping himself.
The Argentine icon won his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday. He captured the sport’s most prestigious individual accolade on the power of his 2022 World Cup performance, in which he led his country to glory.
Messi, 36, beat prolific Manchester City striker Erling Haaland for the award, which was presented at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Haaland smashed the Premier League’s single-season scoring record and helped Manchester City claim a historic treble in his first campaign with the club in 2022-23. However, Norway’s inability to qualify for the World Cup, combined with Messi’s superlative showing at the tournament, tipped the scales in favor of the diminutive Inter Miami superstar.
Messi’s seven goals, including two in the victory over France in an exhilarating final, guided the South American nation to its third World Cup title and finally gave the former Barcelona forward the one piece of silverware that had been missing from his trophy cabinet. He also recorded three assists in Qatar, oftentimes willing the Albiceleste to victory with dazzling moments of magic.
“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved,” Messi said upon winning the latest award in his storied career. “The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies.
“To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing. All of them (Ballon d’Or awards) are special for different reasons.”
On just club form alone, Messi almost certainly wouldn’t have taken home the hardware Monday. He endured a frustrating final season at Paris Saint-Germain – Messi later admitted he was unhappy in the French capital – before making a sensational summer move to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.
But, as is always the case when the Ballon d’Or is presented in a World Cup year, the month-long event outweighed any other considerations.
Messi has now claimed the honor three of the last four times it’s been bestowed; the Ballon d’Or wasn’t awarded in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Karim Benzema is the only male player other than Messi to get his hands on the famous trophy during that span.
Messi’s eight triumphs put him well clear of perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who sits second all time with five.
Messi, the first Argentine to captain his country to a World Cup title since Diego Maradona, used his acceptance speech to remember his late compatriot, who would have turned 63 on Monday.
“Today is his birthday. So I would like to remember him from here, surrounded by the best players, coaches and people who love football like he did,” Messi said. “Wherever you are, Diego, happy birthday. This goes also to you.”
2023 Men’s Ballon d’Or rankings
|1. Lionel Messi 🇦🇷||Inter Miami/PSG|
|2. Erling Haaland 🇳🇴||Manchester City|
|3. Kylian Mbappe 🇫🇷||PSG|
|4. Kevin De Bruyne 🇧🇪||Manchester City|
|5. Rodri 🇪🇸||Manchester City|
|6. Vinicius Junior 🇧🇷||Real Madrid|
|7. Julian Alvarez 🇦🇷||Manchester City|
|8. Victor Osimhen 🇳🇬||Napoli|
|9. Bernardo Silva 🇵🇹||Manchester City|
|10. Luka Modric 🇭🇷||Real Madrid|
|11. Mohamed Salah 🇪🇬||Liverpool|
|12. Robert Lewandowski 🇵🇱||Barcelona|
|13. Yassine Bounou 🇲🇦||Al-Hilal/Sevilla|
|14. Ilkay Gundogan 🇩🇪||Barcelona/Manchester City|
|15. Emiliano Martinez 🇦🇷||Aston Villa|
|16. Karim Benzema 🇫🇷||Al-Ittihad/Real Madrid|
|17. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia 🇬🇪||Napoli|
|18. Jude Bellingham 🏴||Real Madrid/Borussia Dortmund|
|19. Harry Kane 🏴||Bayern Munich/Tottenham|
|20. Lautaro Martinez 🇦🇷||Inter Milan|
|21. Antoine Griezmann 🇫🇷||Atletico Madrid|
|22. Kim Min-jae 🇰🇷||Bayern Munich/Napoli|
|23. Andre Onana 🇨🇲||Manchester United/Inter Milan|
|24. Bukayo Saka 🏴||Arsenal|
|25. Josko Gvardiol 🇭🇷||Manchester City/RB Leipzig|
|26. Jamal Musiala 🇩🇪||Bayern Munich|
|27. Nicolo Barella 🇮🇹||Inter Milan|
|T28. Randal Kolo Muani 🇫🇷||Eintracht Frankfurt/PSG|
|T28. Martin Odegaard 🇳🇴||Arsenal|
|30. Ruben Dias 🇵🇹||Manchester City|
Also on Monday, Spanish superstar and World Cup winner Aitana Bonmati took home the Ballon d’Or Feminin. In other awards, Real Madrid phenom Jude Bellingham claimed the Kopa Trophy as the world’s best player under 21 years of age, while Messi’s international teammate Emiliano Martinez earned the Yachine Trophy as the game’s top goalkeeper.