Eropah English

Messi beats Van Dijk to win sixth Ballon d’Or

It is a night to remember for Lionel Messi as he won sixth Ballon d’Or in his career, beating favourites Liverpool’s defender Virgil Van Dijk.

The triumph however, is the first for the 32-year-old Argentine since winning it in 2015.

Messi’s closest rival Cristiano Ronaldo won Ballon d’Or in 2016 and 2017 before Luka Modric broke the dominance between the two stars by winning the 2018 edition, after a stellar performance during World Cup in Russia.

Messi scored 54 times for club and country in 2018-19, in which Barca won La Liga.

But Van Dijk finished in second place, despite strong performance this year.

He won Champions League and UEFA Super Cup, as well as selected as UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, Champions League Defender of the Year, PFA Player of the Year and FIFPRO Men’s World XI.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the Ballon d’Or five times, was third in the voting this year.

Messi is emotional during the ceremony award.

“Today is my sixth Ballon d’Or. It’s a completely different moment, lived with my family and my children. As my wife said, you must never stop dreaming but always work to improve and continue to enjoy. I am very lucky, I am blessed.

“I hope to continue for a long time. I realise that I am very lucky, even if, one day, retirement will ring. It will be difficult. But I still have beautiful years ahead of me. Time goes very quickly, so I want to enjoy football and my family.”

The Argentine forward recently racked up 700 appearances for Barca, during which time he has scored 614 goals while winning 34 trophies, including 10 La Liga and four Champions League titles.

Meanwhile, Van Dijk who was aiming to become the first defender to win the award since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, felt Messi deserves to win the award.

“It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural,” Van Dijk said of Messi and Ronaldo. “So you need to respect greatness as well. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.

“I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated. It shows a lot about how my career has been. My career has been different from the winner here, I came late, but I never gave up on my dreams.

“I had to work hard every step of the way, so to be here makes me very proud. And I want to work hard and be here again next year.”

In women’s award, Megan Rapinoe won Golden Ball winner after USA claimed a second successive World Cup in 2019.

Liverpool keeper Alisson won the inaugural Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper while Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt took home the Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best under-21 player.