Messi Wins Seventh Ballon d’Or

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*Ronaldo hit out at award organisers

Paris St-Germain and Argentina forward, Lionel Messi, won the Ballon d’Or – awarded to the best footballer of the year – for a record seventh time.

Messi, 34, helped his country win the Copa America, his first international honour, and has scored 40 goals in 2021 – 28 for Barcelona, four for Paris St-Germain and eight for Argentina.

While the Argentine great, Messi, had cause to celebrate a feat that will take generations to break, his main rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, released a furious statement few hours before the results were released hitting out at claims from Ballon d’Or chief Pascal Ferre that his career ambition was to finish with more awards than his rival Lionel Messi, after the forward finished sixth in the rankings.

Ronaldo was absent from yesterday night’s awards ceremony – run by publication France Football – and the Manchester United star sent out a lengthy retort to comments made by Ferre to the New York Timesthat he always had Messi in his sights amid their bitter rivalry to win the year gong.

He ended up being beaten by the Argentine having missed out on a place in the top five. He had edged ahead of Gigi Donnarumma, Kylian Mbappe, Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah, but didn’t have enough votes to win his sixth award.

Ferre had said: “Ronaldo has only one ambition and that is to retire with more Ballon d’Or than Messi and I know because he told me.”

But the player hit back at that claim, saying Ferre had used his name to promote his name, his publication and the ceremony – insisting he wins for himself and his clubs and that his career goals are to leave an impact on the game, win as many trophies as possible and leave an example to youngsters.

“Today’s outcome explains Pascal Ferre’s statements last week, when he stated that I confided in him that my only ambition was to finish my career with more Golden Balls than Lionel Messi,” he wrote on Instagram.

Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski came second, Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third and Real Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema finished fourth.

The Ballon d’Or is voted for by 180 journalists from around the world, although there was no award in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo (five wins) collected the award every year from 2008 to 2019, apart from in 2018 when Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won it.

Messi had already won the trophy more times than any other player and his seventh success comes after wins in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019.

Lewandowski, who scored 53 goals in all competitions in 2021 for Bayern, was awarded the ‘Striker of the Year’ prize, a new award that was only announced hours before the ceremony began.

Paris St-Germain’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, who helped Italy win Euro 2020, won the Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper, while Champions League winners Chelsea were named Club of the Year.