Lionel Messi has been crowned winner of the Ballon d’Or award for a record seventh time with Robert Lewandowski finishing as runner-up.
The Argentine forward capped off a remarkable 2021 by beating off a strong list of nominees to claim the prize at a glitzy ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday.
Messi was widely expected to collect the gong again after leading his country to their first major trophy in 28 years with their Copa America triumph in the summer.
He also played a crucial role in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey success last season in what proved to be his final trophy at the Camp Nou before completing a shock summer transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
His latest accolade is the first he has received in his new home city and takes him two ahead of long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who was among those to miss out on the award.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho were all also in the running but failed to wrestle the trophy away from Messi.
It is the 12th time out of the last 13 editions that either Messi or Ronaldo has won the award, presented to the best footballer in the calendar year.
Organisers France Football opted to cancel last year’s event due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the game worldwide, with Messi retaining his award following his win in 2019.
He said: “Today I’m here in Paris. I am very happy, really very happy, I really want to continue to fight and reach new objectives. I don’t know how many more years but I am really enjoying myself. I thank my team-mates at Barca, Paris & Argentina.”
Messi also paid tribute to Lewandowski, insisting the prolific Pole deserved to win last year’s cancelled accolade in a magnanimous speech.
“Robert, you deserve your Ballon d’Or,” he added. “Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner of this award.”
Elsewhere, Barcelona starlet Pedri, 19, won the Kopa Trophy as the best player under the age of 21, Lewandowski, 33, was crowned Striker of the Year and Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas, 27, was presented with the Ballon d’Or Feminin.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, 22, won the Yashin Trophy as best goalkeeper after steering Italy to Euro 2020 glory this summer, while Chelsea were named Club of the Year having won the Champions League last season.