Paris Saint-Germain forward and Argentine National Team captain Lionel Messi on Monday won his seventh Ballon d’Or, a prestigious annual soccer award given out by the French magazine France Football, adding to a record he broke in 2019 when he claimed his sixth trophy for the award.
Messi finished ahead of Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, who came in second and third, respectively.
Manchester United and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who holds the second-most Ballon d’Ors with five, finished sixth on the 2021 ballot.
Messi took Argentina’s national team to its first Copa América victory since 1993 earlier this year, leading the tournament in both goals (4, tied with Colombia’s Luis Díaz) and assists (5).
In his acceptance speech on Monday, Messi said the runner-up Lewandowski should have been given the 2020 award, which had no winner due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “I think that you deserved to win the award last year,” he said to Lewandowski in the audience at the award ceremony in Paris.
Ronaldo, who was not in attendance at the ceremony, refuted a statement by Ballon d’Or organizer and editor-in-chief of France Football Pascal Ferre, who last week claimed Ronaldo told him his only ambition was to retire with more Ballons d’Or than Messi. “Pascal Ferré lied, he used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication he works for,” Ronaldo said in an Instagram post Monday.
Messi stunned the soccer world earlier this year when he left Barcelona after spending 21 years with the Spanish club, signing a three-year contract with PSG reportedly worth over £25 million ($33 million) per season after taxes. Messi said he was willing to take a 50% pay cut to remain at Barcelona, but the club said “financial and structural obstacles” made an agreement impossible. Messi left the club as its all-time leader in goals scored (672) and assists (305).