Lionel Messi wins sixth Ballon d'Or award, overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi became the first men's footballer to win the Ballon d'Or for a sixth time, taking the award for the world's top men's player Monday at a Paris gala.
The Argentina forward scored 46 times for club and country in 2019 -- including the only goal in Barcelona's 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday. He also helped the Camp Nou side win La Liga.
The 31-year-old beat out Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, who was instrumental in helping Liverpool win the Champions League, for the award voted on by a panel of international journalists.
"I am very lucky, I am blessed. I hope I will continue for a long time," Messi told reporters. "I realize that I'm lucky even if one day it will be time to retire.
"It will be tough, but I still have some years ahead of me. Time flies, so I will enjoy football and my family."
Messi also came out on top in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015, and he is now one clear of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane finished fourth behind Ronaldo in the final voting.
"It was amazing," Van Dijk said. "There are a couple of players like [Messi] who are fantastic. I'm proud of what I've achieved with Liverpool and Holland. It's going to be tough [to win the award] when these guys are around."
Messi and Ronaldo's 10-year grip on the award organised by France Football magazine was ended last year by Luka Modric.
But Messi was back on top of his game over the past 12 months. He scored 36 times last season en route to a 10th Spanish Liga title, and was the Champions League top scorer. His goals in La Liga also made him the top scorer in Europe's biggest leagues, earning him the Golden Shoe award.
"A few years ago, I received my first Ballon d'Or here in Paris," Messi said. "I was 22 years old. It was something unthinkable at the time. Today is my sixth Ballon d'Or. As my wife used to say, you should never stop dreaming but always work to improve and continue to enjoy yourself."
United States star Megan Rapinoe won the Women's Ballon d'Or award after being voted the tournament's best player and joint top scorer as the USWNT won the 2019 World Cup in France.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was the first-ever recipient of the Yachine Trophy, given to the best goalkeeper. The Brazil international beat out Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona and countryman Ederson of Manchester City.
Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, a key player in Ajax Amsterdam's thrilling run to the Champions League semifinals and now at Juventus, won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 male player in the world.
Reuters and The Associated Press were used in this report.