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Lionel Messi wins a record sixth Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi, Barcelona, Ballon d'Or, Cristiano Ronaldo
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Lionel Messi has won a sixth Ballon d’Or to move ahead of rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the award’s record winner.

France Football named Lionel Messi as the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner out of a 30-man shortlist of world-class players during a prestigious ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday night.

Liverpool’s star centre-back Virgil van Dijk finished in a career-best second place in the voting panel in France. While five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo finished third, and Sadio Mane fourth.

Therefore, Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time in his incredible career. He previously won it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Messi continues to make the difference

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True, it wasn’t Messi’s best year in football – but it wasn’t his worst either.

The 32-year-old experienced several lows during the 2018/19 campaign, with the gravest being Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool. Perhaps, that night at Anfield on May 7 was the worst of his career.

A shock Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia in Seville followed 18 days later. While he was powerless to prevent a lacklustre Argentina losing to Brazil in the Copa America semi-finals on July 3.

Of course, the international heartbreak was a real downer on Messi’s year. It meant that he once again didn’t win a major honour with Argentina in his otherwise splendid career.

Rewind six days before Barcelona’s horrendous defeat to Liverpool, however, everybody was singing Messi’s praises.

The 5ft 7in magician was unplayable as he scored his 600th club career goal to lead Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg of their semi-final tie. That free-kick at Camp Nou, which was his second goal of the game, was simply out of this world.

“He’s unstoppable,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp afterwards on Lionel Messi.

“Obviously we couldn’t defend the free-kick. What a strike. He’s a world-class player but I knew that already. It’s no surprise.”

Messi finished last season with a stunning 51 goals and 22 assists in just 50 appearances across all competitions. While it was only enough to win a 10th La Liga title, the stats were truly remarkable given that he’s 32 years old.

And the Argentine remains as crucial as ever for Barcelona this season.

The in-form star’s 11 goals in his last 10 outings have taken the Blaugrana back to the top of La Liga, and into the Champions League knockout stages.

And, with the pressure reaching a boiling point for coach Ernesto Valverde, the Blaugrana remain completedly reliant on Messi.

What next for the newly-crowned Ballon d’Or winner?

The Argentina international has won the Ballon d’Or six times in the last 10 years, which in itself is extraordinary.

But this isn’t his first piece of individual silverware this year having already beaten Van Dijk and Ronaldo to The Best FIFA prize in September. Therefore, he’s won pretty much every single individual accolade around.

For Messi, though, the individual honours will not be a top priority as he looks to make amends for last season.

He has retaliated on several occasions that his aim is to win a first Champions League crown since 2015. Clearly, the last two campaigns are still a sore spot after Barcelona blew such strong aggregate leads in the semi-finals.

With a six-time Ballon d’Or winner in their ranks, however, it’ll take a brave man to bet against them this season.