By Ben Morse, CNN
Lionel Messi won his seventh Ballon d’Or title on Monday, while Alexia Putellas won her first Ballon d’Or Féminin title.
It is a record-extending win for Messi, who now has two more titles than his arch rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although comparatively it might be considered a relatively down year at club level for Messi, he played a vital role in helping Argentina win the Copa América title earlier this year.
He also finished as the Spanish league’s top scorer and scored two goals as Barca won the Copa del Rey.
Before he left for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, Barcelona had finished third in La Liga and had been knocked out of the Champions League in the first round.
“I’m really proud to win the France Football Ballon d’Or once again,” Messi said. “It’s incredible to win it for the seventh time. I would like to thank my family, my friends and all the people who follow me and always support me, because without them I couldn’t have done it.”
Messi previously won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2019.
Messi beat out competition from Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, who netted 53 times this calendar year, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
The Polish striker was widely expected to win last year’s award before it was canceled due to the pandemic.
During his winning speech, Messi said he thought Lewandowski would’ve won the award last year.
“You deserve your Ballon D’Or. Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner,” Messi said.
For Putellas, she’s had a year that dreams are made of.
The 27-year-old was an instrumental player in Barcelona’s treble-winning season, helping the club to victories in the Champions League, the Spanish league and the Spanish Cup.
In 2021, in an excellent Barcelona side, Putellas has looked the standout player, contributing a remarkable 37 goals and 27 assists.
She beat out her Barcelona teammate Jennifer Hermoso to the award; the third time it has been handed out.
It was introduced in 2018 and won by Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, while American Megan Rapinoe became the second winner the following year. Last year’s awards were canceled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The timing of this season’s awards in the middle of a women’s international break has drawn criticism, a decision making it hard for some nominees to attend.
For instance, Australia and Chelsea star Sam Kerr, who is in the running to be crowned the best player in the women’s game, is likely to be a notable absentee from the ceremony with the Matildas facing the US in Newcastle on Tuesday.
The lists of nominees are compiled by France Football, after which a panel of journalists from around the world vote for the winners.
Earlier in the evening, Barcelona star Pedri won the Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best men’s under-21 player.
Lewandowski didn’t end the evening empty-handed though, being named the ‘striker of the year,’ a new award introduced this year.
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was awarded the Yashin Trophy for the best keeper.
European champions Chelsea was named club of the year, the first team to win that trophy.
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