Lionel Messi has clinched his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or award for 2023. The Inter Miami and Argentina striker, who previously played for Paris Saint-Germain, led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar last December, ending a 36-year drought for the South American nation. At 36 years old, Messi’s Ballon d’Or wins now stand at three more than any other player in history. The announcement was made during a ceremony in Paris on Monday.
Messi played a pivotal role as he captained Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup, marking his first World Cup win. He scored twice in a thrilling final against France, which ended 3-3 after extra time, converted a penalty in the shootout, and was named the player of the match. Messi faced tough competition from Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe, as well as 26 other nominees, but ultimately emerged as the victor.
In the 2022/23 season, while playing for PSG, Messi contributed to a successful league title-winning campaign. He appeared in 41 matches, scoring 21 goals and providing 20 assists. During the World Cup in Qatar, Messi was in top form, scoring twice in the group stage and finding the net in every knockout round, including matches against Australia, the Netherlands, and Croatia. He also scored in the final and finished as the second-highest goal scorer with seven goals. In recognition of his outstanding performance, he received the Golden Ball at the end of the tournament.
During the award ceremony, Messi expressed his gratitude, saying, “Thank you very much, to share this with my national team-mates for what we were able to achieve with the national team. The entire group, the coaching staff, everyone involved. I’m delighted to be here once more to be able to enjoy this moment one more time. To be able to win the World Cup and really achieve my dream, to share this with all those who were involved.”
In a poignant tribute, he also mentioned, “To finish, I want to say happy birthday to Diego Maradona.”
After his contract with PSG expired in the summer, Messi moved to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer (MLS) on a free transfer, distinguishing himself as one of the three players nominated for the Ballon d’Or who currently do not play in Europe.
Messi’s illustrious career began with Barcelona, where he spent 17 years from 2004 to 2021, and he previously won the Ballon d’Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021. He secured his first Ballon d’Or at the age of 22 in 2009, and 14 years later, he has now captured an unprecedented eighth award.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the captain of Portugal and Al Nassr, holds the second spot with five Ballon d’Or awards. However, he was not nominated for the 2023 edition, marking the first time he has not been in contention since 2003.
The Premier League was well-represented in the nominations, with players like Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, and Julian Alvarez among the seven Manchester City players put forward. Messi congratulated his fellow nominees, saying, “Hats off to Kylian [Mbappe], Erling, Kevin. You guys are very young and have already achieved so much. There is plenty of time left for more accomplishments.”
The nominations also included English talents like Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, and Jude Bellingham.
In the women’s category, Spain’s Aitana Bonmati, who also won the World Cup, secured the fifth edition of the Ballon d’Or Féminin, while Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham was named the best young player and received the Kopa Trophy.