Messi Wins Record-Extending 8th Ballon d’Or, Bonmati Takes Women’s Award

(AP) — The list reads 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021, and now 2023.

Lionel Messi won the men’s Ballon d’Or for a record-extending eighth time on Monday after fulfilling his life’s ambition by leading Argentina to the World Cup title in Qatar last year.

Adding to his silverware the one major trophy that eluded him in his storied career was the decisive factor in an otherwise quite mundane season — for his standards — at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 36-year-old Messi won ahead of Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and his former PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe.

Messi thanked his Argentina coach, teammates and staff for making his victory possible.

“Tonight I’m enjoying myself. It’s a pleasure that will never leave me, and I hope to be able to enjoy it for many years to come,” Messi said through a translator. “Becoming world champion was the title we were missing. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make Argentina the world champion team.”

Messi also paid tribute to the late Diego Maradona, who also helped Argentina win the World Cup, back in 1986.

“This title and this trophy,” Messi said, “I share them with you and all our Argentina comrades.”

Aitana Bonmati won the women’s award for guiding Spain to victory at the Women’s World Cup in August. She also helped Barcelona win the Women’s Champions League and Spanish league.

A year after missing out on the shortlist for the 2022 Ballon d’Or, and despite leaving top-level European soccer behind, Messi has recovered his crown.

He won the sport’s biggest individual prize due to his tremendous World Cup. In Qatar, Messi was involved in 10 goals for Argentina, scoring seven and assisting three. He scored twice in the final against France.

His final season with PSG was less shiny. Although PSG won a record-extending 11th French league, it again exited the Champions League in the round of 16.

Nobody else has won more than five Ballon d’Or. Cristiano Ronaldo has five, and Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten each won it three times.

Since moving to Inter Miami in the United States, Messi has already picked up his first silverware there by inspiring the team to victory in the US Leagues Cup.

Messi’s latest win marked the first time a Major League Soccer-based player got such recognition. Messi received the trophy from former Manchester United star David Beckham, who is one of the owners of his new club.

“I’m very happy with the decisions I’ve made and to be with Miami,” Messi said.

He succeeded Karim Benzema.

Mbappe hoped another Frenchman could win the Ballon d’Or after he scored a hat trick in the World Cup final, though France lost in a penalty shootout.

Haaland led City to a treble of trophies last season — Champions League, English Premier League, FA Cup — while scoring 52 goals.

Bonmati had already been awarded UEFA best women’s player and the Golden Ball for the top Women’s World Cup player. She scored three times and assisted twice at the tournament.

She followed in the footsteps of her teammate Alexia Putellas, who took the past two awards.

Bonmati won ahead of Sam Kerr and Salma Paralluelo.

“We are a country that lives football, intensely,” Bonmati said. “We have a unique talent in Spain.”

For the first time last year, the trophy awarded by France Football magazine was based on achievements from the past season. It was previously awarded based on performances through a calendar year. Stanley Matthews won the first Ballon d’Or in 1956.

The women’s trophy was created in 2018, and both were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

In other awards, the best under-21 player was Jude Bellingham, while Haaland won the Gerd Müller award for the best striker of the year.

The Lev Yashin award for best goalkeeper went to Emiliano Martinez. In addition to his trophy, the Argentina goalkeeper collected boos and whistles from the audience at the Theatre du Chatelet that included Mbappe and France coach Didier Deschamps.

Martinez was criticized for the excessive tone of his World Cup celebrations. He carried a doll with Mbappe’s face on it while standing alongside teammate Messi as Argentina paraded the trophy back home. Martinez, who also made a crude gesture after winning the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper, was filmed mocking Mbappe in the team dressing room after the game.

The humanitarian prize named after the late Brazil midfielder Socrates went to Vinicius Junior, for his involvement in the foundation he set up for underprivileged children. The Real Madrid player, who has been the target of racist abuse in the Spanish league, pledged to keep up the fight against racism.