Football is arguably the most-watched sport on earth, attracting many followers across the world. Every year, the best players of the game receive awards for their exceptional performance on the pitch. One of the most anticipated and competitive accolades is the Ballon d'Or, whose ceremony recently took place in Paris, France. Lionel Messi and Megan Rapinoe walked way with the top prizes in the ceremony.
The colourful ceremony took place at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Dec 2, 2019. Thousands of fans, players, coaches, journalists and football stakeholders among others attended the event in the French capital. Those who could not make it to the live event had to follow it on specified channels.
Messi scoops a record sixth title
Argentine and Barcelona star Messi made history by winning the award for a record sixth time, becoming the only player to have achieved that fete. The Barcelona forward held off the challenge of Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk and long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Juventus.
Messi scored 54 goals for club and country in the 2018-19 season that saw him lead the scoring charts in La Liga and Champions League. He also guided his club to the Spanish League glory but finished third with Argentina in Copa America.
Van Dijk finished second after helping Liverpool to the Champions League in the 2018-19 season. Ronaldo, who did not attend the event, settled for third after playing an integral role in guiding Juventus to another Serie A title and Supercoppa Italiana.
Top 10 men's ranking
Liverpool attacking duo Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah ranked fourth and fifth respectively. PSG's French striker Kylian Mbappé ranked sixth ahead of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich and Poland ranked at eighth position, with Manchester City duo, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez settling for ninth and tenth positions respectively.
Rapinoe feted with women's award
In the women's category, Rapinoe took home the individual award, adding to her FIFA Best Women's Player crown. She starred as her country defended the FIFA Women's World Cup this year after edging out their Dutch counterparts in the final. She was named player of the tournament and also finished joint-top scorer with six goals.
Lucy Bronze finished second after guiding Lyon to the women's Champions League title. The England international was also part of the squad that won a bronze medal in the 2019 World Cup. Bronze won the 2019 UEFA Women's Player of the Year award, ahead of Lyon teammates Ada Hegerberg and Amandine Henry who came second and third respectively. Alex Morgan of the United States came third in the ranking, despite finishing second in the FIFA Best Women's award.
Top 10 women's ranking
- Megan Rapinoe - Reign FC/USA
- Lucy Bronze - Lyon/England
- Alex Morgan - Orlando Pride/USA
- Ada Hegerberg - Lyon/Norway
- Vivianne Miedema - Arsenal/Netherlands
- Wendie Renard - Lyon/France
- Sam Kerr - Chelsea/Australia
- Rose Lavelle - Washington Spirit/USA
- Ellen White - Manchester City/England
- Dzsenifer Marozsan - Lyon/Germany
Former Ajax defender and Juventus player Matthijs de Ligt took home this year's Kopa Trophy. The award honours the best young player in European football. He defeated Borussia Dortmund youngster Jadon Sancho and Atletico Madrid's João Félix. Mbappé won the award in 2018.
The inaugural Yachine Trophy went to Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. It is an award given to the best goalkeeper in the world. Becker edged out the likes of Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich, Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona's Marc-André ter Stegen.
History of Ballon d'Or
It is an annual ceremony that recognizes the best football players of the year as voted by journalists, national team coaches and captains. The 2019 event marked the 64th edition presented by France football.
The history of the award dates back to the 1950s when it was only narrowed down to European players. Subsequent changes meant even players from other continents could win it. In 2010, the award merged with FIFA Player of the Year accolade before separating in 2016. The world football governing body went on to form its annual award called The Best.
Past Ballon d'Or winners
Real Madrid midfielder, Luka Modrić, lifted the prestigious accolade in 2018 to end the 10-year dominance of Messi (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015) and Ronaldo (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017). The inaugural winner of the prize was Stanley Matthews of Blackpool and England. Elsewhere, Rapinoe is the second recipient of the accolade after Norwegian and Lyon striker Ada Hegerberg lifted the first title in 2018.
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Focus now shifts on the 2020 Ballon d'Or award ceremony, but will Messi and Rapinoe defend their accolades? Do you think the two deserved the award this year?