Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday, making the Argentinian soccer legend the first man to win the prestigious award while playing for three different clubs.
Messi, who currently plays with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, received the award before a standing ovation at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. Fellow soccer legend David Beckham announced Messi as the winner of the Ballon d’Or trophy, which is given annually to the best player in the world.
Before playing for Inter Miami this year, Messi spent two years with Paris Saint-Germain, which competes in France’s top division called Ligue 1. He also represented Argentina on the international stage, leading his country to a World Cup victory in December.
Until 2021, Messi played with the Catalan club Barcelona for nearly two decades, arriving from Argentina as a 13-year-old to play in its youth squads. The soccer star made his debut with the team at 17 years old.
Pep Guardiola, the manager for the Premier League soccer team Manchester City, told TNT Sports that he supported both Messi and his own player Erling Haaland for the award. Haaland, of Norway, came in second for the trophy, while France’s Kylian Mbappé came in third.
“Always, I said that the Ballon d’Or should be two sections: one for Messi, and after look for the other ones,” he said, adding that the “worst season for Messi is the best for the rest of the players.”
Before Monday’s award, Messi’s seven Ballons d’Or — in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021 — were already more than every Brazilian player to have ever won it, combined. After Messi, the player to have earned the highest number of Ballons d’Or is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, his longtime rival, who has won five.
According to The Athletic, which cites France Football, jurors must consider three factors when deciding who should win the award: individual performances and impressive character; collective performances and honors; and class and fair play.
About two-thirds of the past 66 men’s Ballons d’Or have gone to forwards, hinting that being a striker gives a player an advantage in fighting for the award. Of the remaining awards, 17 have gone to midfielders, four to defenders and just one to a goalie.
Spain’s Aitana Bonmati was the winner of the Ballon d’Or Feminin, the women’s soccer award that has only existed so far for five years. Both Bonmati and Messi won World Cups in the last year.