In a stunning feat, Argentina’s Lionel Messi clinched his eighth Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player on Monday in Paris, France. He outshone Erling Haaland, the UEFA player of the year and Manchester City’s treble winner, to claim this prestigious award. Completing the top three best players in the world was France’s Kylian Mbappe, who represents Paris St Germain.
Nigeria witnessed history as Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala achieved impressive rankings of 8th and 20th, respectively, in the 2023 Men and Women’s Ballon d’Or standings. The Super Falcons conveyed their congratulations to Oshoala through an official message, stating, “Asisat Oshoala’s 20th place ranking in the 2023 Women’s Ballon d’Or is a historic and significant achievement for Africa. She’s a talented footballer and deserves the recognition. Congratulations @AsisatOshoala.”
Lionel Messi, now playing for Inter Miami, last claimed the Ballon d’Or in 2021 and played a pivotal role in guiding Argentina to their first World Cup title in 36 years in Qatar the previous season. At 36, Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or makes him the first MLS-based player to win this coveted prize, largely due to his contributions to Argentina’s success in Qatar. The award was presented to Messi by David Beckham, former Manchester United player and co-owner of Inter Miami.
Erling Haaland, who scored 52 goals during City’s treble-winning 2022-23 season, secured the second position in the voting and received the Gerd Muller Trophy for the best striker of the year. Messi, visibly thrilled, expressed, “I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved. The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies. To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing. All of them [Ballon d’Or awards] are special for different reasons.”
Before Messi received his accolade, Barcelona and Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmatí secured the Ballon d’Or Féminin after an extraordinary year with club and country. Her achievements included helping Barcelona win Liga F and the Champions League last season, before leading Spain to World Cup glory.
In other awards presented on Monday, Messi’s Argentina teammate Emiliano Martinez won the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper, and England and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham received the Kopa Trophy as the world’s top player under the age of 21.
During his acceptance speech, Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona on what would have been his birthday, saying, “My last mention is for Diego [Maradona]. Today is his birthday. So I would like to remember him from here, surrounded by the best players, coaches, and people who love football like he did. Wherever you are, Diego, happy birthday. This goes also to you.”
Before this ceremony, no player had won the Ballon d’Or more times than Messi, who first claimed it in 2009 and then in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021. Cristiano Ronaldo has won it five times, while Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten are all three-time winners.
Messi tallied 21 goals in 41 appearances last season as Paris Saint-Germain retained the Ligue 1 title before his move to Inter Miami earlier in the year. Since joining the U.S. team, he has scored 11 goals in 14 games, helping them win their first-ever silverware, the Leagues Cup.
However, Messi missed several matches due to injury towards the end of the regular MLS season, as Inter Miami narrowly missed a playoff spot. His performances at the World Cup in 2022 solidified his eighth Ballon d’Or win, as he led Argentina to World Cup victory, scoring seven goals and assisting three, earning him the Player of the Tournament title.
At 36 years and four months old, Messi is now the second oldest player ever to secure the Ballon d’Or, replacing the 2022 winner, Karim Benzema. The only older recipient was the inaugural winner, Stanley Matthews, in 1956, who claimed the honour at the age of 41. Messi’s first six Ballons d’Or were won during his tenure at Barcelona, where he became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer and appearance holder. He won it for a seventh time shortly after joining PSG in 2021 following Argentina’s Copa America triumph.