|Lionel Messi has won a record 8th Ballon d'Or, fending off stiff competition from Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. (Photo credit: Sky Sports)|
Argentina and Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi have won the Ballon d’Or for the record eighth time, fending off stiff competition from Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and his former teammate Kylian Mbappe.
Messi, 36, led the Albiceleste to World Cup glory in Qatar, scoring twice in the final against France, and was part of the title-winning PSG side last season. He joined David Beckham’s Inter Miami in the summer and has been an instant hit in the MLS.
Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick against Argentina in the World Cup final but ended up on the losing side after Argentina won on penalties. Erling Haaland won a treble of Premier League titles, the Champions League, and the FA Cup with Manchester City.
"I couldn't imagine having the career that I've had. Everything that I've achieved," Messi said after getting his award. "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 [the Ballon d'Or awards] are special for different reasons."
Barcelona and Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmati won the Ballon d’Or Feminim after leading Spain to the Women's World Cup title in Australia and New Zealand; she won La Liga F with Barcelona as well as the female version of the Champions League.
Haaland won the Gerd Muller trophy as the highest goal scorer, while Jude Bellingham won the Kopa trophy as the best under-21 player, beating Jamaal Musiala to the award. Emiliano Martinez won the Yashin Trophy for goalkeepers.
"My last mention is for Diego [Maradona]," Messi said. "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 also goes to you."