PARIS – After becoming the first six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi said he’s far from finished.
“I hope to continue for a long time,” Messi said on Monday in Paris from behind a row of the trophies which honor the world’s best soccer player.
“I realize that I am very lucky, even if, one day, retirement will come. It will be difficult. But I still have a lot of good years ahead of me. Time goes by very quickly, so I want to enjoy football and my family.”
While the 32-year-old Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or, United States captain Megan Rapinoe won her first.
“I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field, it’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded video message during the ceremony at the lavish Theatre du Chatelet.
Messi has received the Ballon d’Or previously in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was second in the polling this year, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who shared the record of five Ballon d’Ors with Messi until Monday.
Messi’s and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the award organized 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 League scoring 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.”
The Argentine has not showed any sign of slowing down since the start of the new European season, marking his 700th game for Barcelona last week with a goal and two assists in beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1. So far this year, Messi has 41 goals in 44 games.
Messi also won his sixth FIFA award in September, edging Van Dijk, who missed the chance to become the first defender to top the France Football poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, in 2006.
Van Dijk clinched the 2019 Champions League crown with the Reds after obliterating Messi’s Barcelona in the semifinals.
“It’s been an amazing year, I was close but unfortunately there are a couple of players like (Messi). I am very proud,” Van Dijk said.
He was among seven Liverpool players nominated, beside goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or for leading the United States to World Cup glory in July. She scored six goals in the championship, earning her the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the top player.
“I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight,” Rapinoe said on video. “I’ll do my best to get there next year.”
France Football magazine has been awarding the Ballon d’Or since 1956 and created a women’s award for the first time last year when Norway’s Ada Hegerberg won it. Hegerberg was fourth this time. Lucy Bronze of England was second and Alex Morgan third.
Juventus defender Matthijs De Light won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player, and the inaugural Yashin Trophy given to the year’s best men’s goalkeeper went to Liverpool’s Alisson.
Also Monday, Ronaldo was named the Italian League’s player of the year following his debut season at Juventus.
Ronaldo was at the Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan to collect his prize, instead of attending the Ballon d’Or ceremony.
The Juventus forward turned up about an hour before the main award was announced, arriving more than two hours after the other guests, and waited outside in the car until the moment came for him to go on stage to pick up the prize for his place in the team of the season.
“It’s an honor to hold this award,” Ronaldo said in Italian. “I thank my Juventus teammates.
“I’m very happy to play in Italy, it’s a very difficult league. Thanks to everyone for having voted for me. I want to do as well this year, too.”
For the first time at the Italian ceremony there were also awards for female players. Roma and Italy forward Manuela Giugliano won the top prize.
All the awards are voted for by a mix of players, coaches, referees and journalists.
Ronaldo signed with Juventus from Real Madrid in July 2018 and helped the Bianconeri to their eighth successive Serie A title.
The 34-year-old Ronaldo scored 28 goals in all competitions for Juventus, including 21 in the league.
Gian Piero Gasperini won the award for best coach after leading Atalanta to third place and a Champions League berth.
Atalanta was the team of the season, ahead of Juventus and Italian Cup winner Lazio.
“This award I share with the whole club, all the players, the whole of Bergamo because we did something really amazing, all of us together,” Gasperini said.