Lionel Messi has been awarded the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
At a star-studded ceremony in Paris on Monday evening, the FC Barcelona star was crowned the world’s best player for the first time since 2015 and on a record sixth occasion overall after seeing off strong competition from the likes of Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk.
Buzz had been growing for weeks that the Argentine was a cert for soccer’s highest individual accolade. Especially in Catalonia, where the autnomous province’s two main newspapers, Mundo Deportivo and SPORT, filled column inches with claims that the club and country captain had done enough to please the jury.
This of course consisted of 182 respected journalists worldwide, but as recent as last week, Mundo Deportivo insisted that France Football, the magazine that established the prize before being joined by FIFA in 2010, had already been in Barcelona to conduct an interview and photoshoot with the 32-year-old.
Messi’s stranglehold on the golden ball began in 2009, which is when he claimed the treble under Pep Guardiola and then set off on an unprecedented run of four straight wins that was interrupted by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, then at Real Madrid, ruled for two straight editions before Messi, this time on Luis Enrique’s watch, sealed another club triple crown in 2015 and was handed a record fifth golden ball for his troubles.
Owing to Ronaldo’s part in Los Blancos lifting the Champions League in 2016 and becoming the first team to retain it twice in 2017, the Portuguese eventually drew level with the club and country captain.