Messi wins Ballon d’Or for record sixth time

Rapi­noe of US claims women’s prize, Liverpool’s Alis­son bags best goal­keeper award

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Paris, France - Lionel Messi said he hoped to carry on undimmed by age af­ter claim­ing a record sixth men's Ballon d'Or award at the age of 32 in Paris, France, on Mon­day, while US World Cup su­per­star Me­gan Rapi­noe took the women's prize.

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

How­ever, Messi was there with his wife, An­tonella Roc­cuzzo, and two of their chil­dren. It is Messi's first Ballon d'Or since 2015 and his sixth over­all as he moves one ahead of old rival Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

"It is ten 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," Messi said on stage af­ter re­ceiv­ing the award from last year's win­ner Luka Mo­dric.

"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."

Van Dijk is sec­ond

The Barcelona No 10 won this year's prize - or­gan­ised by France Foot­ball mag­a­zine and voted for by a panel of jour­nal­ists from around the world - ahead of Liverpool de­fender Vir­gil van Dijk, with Ron­aldo third. It is the first time since 2010 that Ron­aldo has failed to rank in the top two.

Hav­ing starred in the team that won the Cham­pi­ons League, Van Dijk fin­ished sec­ond to 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.

Van Dijk was one of four Liverpool play­ers in the top-ten, 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 USSR icon

Lev Yashin. He helped

Liverpool to Cham­pi­ons League glory and also won the Copa Amer­ica with Brazil.

Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019, and netted 36 times in to­tal in 34 Span­ish League 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.

‘In­cred­i­ble year’

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.

She scored the open­ing goal as the US beat the Nether­lands 2-0 in the fi­nal. But the 34 year old fem­i­nist icon made head­lines with her out­spo­ken crit­i­cism of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing the tour­na­ment 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 ex-Ajax star now at Ju­ven­tus, suc­ceeded Kylian Mbappe as the win­ner of the Kopa Tro­phy for the best player aged un­der 21.

De Ligt, 20, starred in the Ajax side who reached the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals and won the Dutch ti­tle, be­fore join­ing Ju­ven­tus in a deal worth US$94.7mn.

The award is named af­ter Ray­mond Kopa, the Real Madrid and France star of the post-war era who won the Ballon d'Or in 1958.

(AFP)

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with his 2019 Ballon D’Or tro­phy on Mon­day

Liverpool's Alis­son Becker with Lev Yashin tro­phy for best goal­keeper

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