It was another night of pomp and pageantry at the théâtre du Châtelet, venue of the Ballon d’Or ceremony yesterday as awardees, family members and well-wishers attended the august occasion in grace and style, with Lionel Messi and his three sons rocking in matching shiny suits on the red carpet.

Heightened emotions and frayed nerves have however characterised the world of football lovers in the build-up to yesterday’s ceremony, especially between the Ronaldo and Messi fans. Obviously, it is a given that this year’s race isn’t between the usual top finalists; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, as the former was rumoured to be up against Robert Lewandoski, who was the favourite to win the 2020 Ballon d’Or until it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, to the utter displeasure of Ronaldo’s loyalists, Lionel Messi made history by winning his seventh Ballon d’Or award in Paris last night. He finished ahead of Bayern Munich’s striker, Robert Lewandoski, who ranked second, and Chelsea’s midfielder Jorghino, who finished third.

The 34-year old Argentine registered 41 goals and 17 assists for club and country in 2021. He was also instrumental in Argentina winning the Copa America this year, the first and long-awaited major international honour of his senior career.

With this new feat, he became the male player to have won the most prestigious award in football, more times than any other male player in history, two clear of his closest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I don’t know how many years I have left, but I hope there will still be many because I am having enormous fun,” Messi said at the France Football ceremony before praising Lewandowski.

“You deserve your Ballon d’Or,” the Argentine added. “Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner.”

This means that Luka Modric remains the only player to have broken Messi and Ronaldo’s 13-year stranglehold on the Ballon d’Or as Lewandoski was only consoled with the Best Striker’s award. This is also the first time since Xavi(3rd) and Andrés Iniesta(4th) that two midfielders from the same club, Jorghino (3rd) and Ngolo Kanye (5th) made it to the top five for the men’s Ballon d’Or.

London based club, Chelsea FC was awarded the best club of the year following an excellent season that saw them winning the UEFA Champions League to emerge as the champions of Europe and subsequently, clinching the Super Cup.

In the women’s category, Alexia Putellas clinched the Ballon d’Or award, as she cruised past her teammate, Jennifer Hermoso, who finished second and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr, who sits in the third spot. She was pivotal to the Barcelona Female team lifting the 2020/21 Women’s Champions League.

Pedri bagged the Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best male player age 21 or under, with Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham finishing second in the voting.

Meanwhile, Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was sensational in the just concluded Euro 2021, won the 2021 Yachine Trophy award handed to the best goalkeeper of the year ahead of Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy. Donnarumma also made the Ballon d’or top ten.

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona/PSG) – 613 points
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 580 pts
3. Jorginho (Chelsea) – 460 pts
4. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – 239 pts
5. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – 186 pts
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United) – 178 pts
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 121 pts
8. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – 73 pts
9. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) – 58 pts
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan/Paris Saint-Germain) – 36 pts

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