Football: Lionel Messi and Alexia Putellas win the 2021 Ballon d'Or award
Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d'Or has been given out to men every year since 1956, when Stanley Matthews won.
Lionel Messi won the men's Ballon d'Or for a record-extending seventh time, ending the year in style after a brilliant final season with Barcelona and earning his first major international trophy with Argentina. Alexia Putellas became the third winner of the women's award for an outstanding season with Barcelona and Spain.
The 34-year-old Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title in July after losing in four major international finals. "I'm very happy to be here, happy to keep fighting for new trophies," he said through a translator. "I don't know how many years I have left, but I hope many more. I'd like to thank all my (former) teammates at Barcelona and Argentina."
Messi finished with 613 points to top prolific Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski on 580. "I would like to say to Robert that it's an honour to be your rival, and everyone would say you deserved to win it last year," Messi said.
Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d'Or has been given out to men every year since 1956 when Stanley Matthews won. Both 2020 awards were cancelled because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season.
The 33-year-old Lewandowski set a new single-season scoring record for the Bundesliga with 41 goals — one more than late Germany great Gerd Müller — when he scored in the last minute of the last game. Lewandowski netted in 19 consecutive games in all competitions for Bayern from February to September and he just missed out on equaling the record of scoring in 16 Bundesliga games in a row.
Overall, he already has 25 goals in 20 games for Bayern this season. His 11 goals in 12 games for Poland this year took his international tally to 74 in 128 games, just six less than Messi.
Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third with 460 points after helping the London club win the Champions League and his nation win the European Championship. Real Madrid and France forward Karim Benzema was fourth on 239.
Putellas helped Barca win the treble and scored 26 goals in 42 games overall. The midfielder netted in the Champions League final against Chelsea, and in August she was named UEFA women's player of the year. "I'm very emotional, it's a very special moment," she said at the Paris ceremony through a translator. "I would like to start by thanking all my teammates, especially my current (Barcelona) teammates. For me, it's a collective success."
The only previous women's award winners are Norway striker Ada Hegerberg in 2018, and U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe in 2019.
Putellas tallied 186 points to finish far ahead of club and country teammate Jenni Hermoso on 84. Hermoso netted 31 goals to top the Spanish first division scoring charts for a third straight season. Hermoso was the joint-top scorer in the Champions League with Chelsea's Fran Kirby on six goals.
Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr placed third in the voting after 21 goals in the English Women's Super League and six for Australia at the Tokyo Games. Kerr has maintained her excellent form with 13 goals in 12 games this season.
Messi, meanwhile, counts two more Ballon d'Or awards than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who was sixth in the voting. Messi's staggering tally of 672 goals for Barcelona included an extraordinary 50-goal league season in 2012; 96 league goals across 2012 and 2013; eight Spanish league and six Champions League scoring titles.
In his final season with the Spanish giant, he netted 38 overall, winning his last trophy with a superb performance in the Copa del Rey final. At Copa America, Messi was inspirational, finishing joint-top scorer with four goals and leading with five assists. Then he stunned the soccer world by joining Paris Saint-Germain. He has made a modest start with four goals in nine games.
But he remains a constant threat, even when he's not in top form, as he showed in a 3-1 win at Saint-Etienne where he set up all three goals. In other awards, the Kopa Trophy for the best under 21 player went to 19-year-old Spain and Barcelona midfielder Pedri.
He caught the eye at Euro 2020 and reached the Olympic final. The Lev Yashin for a best goalkeeper was won by Gianluigi Donnarumma, who helped Italy win the Euros.