In the final stretch of a prodigious career, Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or for the eighth time, this Monday at the Châtelet theater in Paris, where Aitana Bonmatí was crowned for the first time and made her entry into the Olympus of football, after that both were world champions with Argentina and Spain, respectively.
Messi will have to make a new place in his overloaded showcases: proclaimed world champion at the end of 2022 in Qatar, author of seven goals, including a double in the final, the 36-year-old Argentine surpassed the Norwegian on the podium of the highest individual award Erling Haaland and Frenchman Kylian Mbappé.
After 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 with Barça and 2021 with the colors of PSG, Messi added more shine to a record that is difficult to repeat in which at the national team level he added a Copa América in 2021 and 2022 and the long-awaited World Cup.
– In front of Haaland and Mbappé –
His award has greater merit because the other two young candidates, aged 23 and 24, also had solid arguments.
With spectacular effectiveness (52 goals with his club) in his first year in England, Haaland offered the Champions League to Manchester City, but also the Premier League and the English Cup.
And runner-up in the world with France, Mbappé finished as the competition's top scorer (8), with one more goal than Messi, with a hat-trick in the final. Champion of the French league with PSG, Mbappé could not win his first Champions League.
So it was the World Cup final (3-3, 4-2 on penalties) that tipped the balance for the Argentine, who improved his record with an eighth Ballon d'Or in his cabinets, to add three more than his immediate pursuer Cristiano Ronaldo (5).
The outcome of the World Cup and therefore the Ballon d'Or could have been different without Emiliano Martínez, author of a decisive save against the Frenchman Randal Kolo Muani and chosen as the best goalkeeper in the world this year (Yashin Trophy). Author of a controversial celebration after the World Cup title, he was whistled by part of the Parisian theater where the gala took place.
Since 2008 (first Ballon d'Or for Cristiano Ronaldo) and 2009 (first for Messi), the two stars have shared France Football magazine's awards: only Luka Modric (2018) and Benzema (2022) managed to gain a place.
Only the future will tell if it is the last award for the now Inter Miami player, in a championship with less aura.
«I am not thinking about the long-term future, I am going to enjoy the day-to-day of what is to come, yes now we have a Copa América in the United States, in the place where I am now, where we are the defenders of the title, so "I want to get to that Copa América well and go little by little and see how I feel day by day," Messi declared for AFP and other press agencies.
If football sees the Messi-Ronaldo era fading little by little, the succession is assured with Haaland and Mbappé.
In a ceremony in which tribute was paid to glories such as the Brazilian Pelé, the Spanish Luis Suárez and Bobby Charlton, who died in recent months, the ceremony also outlined the future through the Englishman Jude Bellingham, 20, elected best young man of the year (Kopa Trophy).
– Aitana, gold –
In the female category, the FC Barcelona midfielder and current world champion with Spain, Aitana Bonmatí, won the female Ballon d'Or, succeeding her teammate in Barça and in the national team Alexia Putellas, who had won the two previous editions.
World Cup champion in Australia and New Zealand, Aitana Bonmatí, 25, also won the last edition of the Women's Champions League with Barça and the Spanish championship.
After having been chosen as the best UEFA player of the year, the Catalan player becomes the second footballer born in Spain to win the award after Putellas, and the third counting men, after Luis Suárez's Ballon d'Or in 1960. .
«The truth is that it has been a unique year, who would have told me when I was little that I am going to play at the Camp Nou, that I am going to win a World Cup, two Champions Leagues, a Ballon d'Or, a UEFA award, they are Extraordinary things have been happening lately, I really value everything that is happening to me," declared Aitana, still with the Ballon d'Or under her arm.