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Lionel Messi and Aitana Bonmatí win men’s and women’s Ballon d’Or awards

By George Ramsay and Patrick Sung, CNN

(CNN) — Lionel Messi won a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday, while Barcelona and Spain star Aitana Bonmatí won the Ballon d’Or Féminin – the annual soccer awards celebrating the best players in the men’s and women’s game.

Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, picked up this year’s award in Paris after captaining Argentina’s victorious World Cup campaign at the end of last year, the biggest title of the Inter Miami star’s career to date.

The former Barcelona star topped the voting ahead of Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and Messi’s former Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Kylian Mbappé.

“I never imagined having the career that I’ve had. I’ve had the luck, thank God, to have achieved all my goals, to have achieved everything in football which is very difficult,” said Messi after receiving his Ballon d’Or from Inter Miami co-owner and former England great David Beckham.

“I had the luck as Aitana said before to have been on the best team in the world, the best team in history which makes everything more easy to win more titles, which leads to individual prizes,” Messi said of his trophy-laden time with Barça, before touching on his struggles with Argentina – where the star has experienced plenty of ups and downs, including a brief consideration of retirement from the international game following the Albiceleste’s gutting loss to penalties in the 2016 Copa América final.

“I’ve had a lot of difficult moments, above all with the Argentina national team … where things didn’t go well for me. And I’ll say it again, I never dropped my arms, I kept on fighting to be able to achieve the Copa América [in 2021], to win the World Cup and I’m very proud to have not been stuck in simply trying and having been able to achieve it.”

Messi also made mention of a fellow Argentine great, Diego Maradona, who died in 2020 and is revered in Argentina as a soccer icon and hero.

“I want to do a final mention to Diego [Maradona]. Today is his birthday,” Messi said, “so I don’t think there’s a better place to wish him a happy birthday than surrounded by players, coaches, by people who love football like he did, so wherever you are, happy birthday, Diego. This [award] is also for you, I share it with you and with all of Argentina.”

Bonmatí was an influential figure in Spain’s Women’s World Cup win two months ago, scoring three goals and registering two assists and winning the Golden Ball for the best player at Australia and New Zealand 2023. She also helped Barcelona Femení to a double last season, with the Blaugrana claiming the team’s eighth Liga F title and a second Women’s Champions League after defeating Wolfsburg in June.

“I’m very proud to receive the Ballon d’Or tonight. Even though it’s an individual prize, football is a collective, team sport, so I’d like to share the prize with my colleagues, staff, workers at Barça and the national team because what’s clear is that without the titles achieved this year. I wouldn’t be here,” Bonmatí said after accepting her award from 24-time tennis grand slam singles champion Novak Djokovic.

“I’m a little bit nervous, I haven’t slept a few days. To be here in the world’s biggest football gala is a dream for me and even though I’m a discreet person, as I said being here is special.

“I have the luck to play in a great club like FC Barcelona and the national team too. In both places, I have the best teammates next to me that make me better every day.”

The midfielder is the second Spanish player to win the Ballon d’Or Féminin, which was introduced in 2018, after Barça teammate Alexia Putellas won the award back-to-back in 2021 and 2022.

Behind Bonmatí in the voting were Chelsea and Australia star striker Sam Kerr and Bonmatí’s La Roja and Barcelona teenage teammate, Salma Paralluelo.

The lists of nominees are compiled by France Football, after which a panel of journalists from around the world vote to determine the winners.

Bellingham, Haaland headline other awards

The first award of the night went to Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham, who won the Kopa Trophy – handed out to the best player in the world under the age of 21 – for last season when he was at German club Borussia Dortmund.

Bellingham has since made a huge impact since transferring to Los Blancos in the summerscoring 13 goals in 13 games – including a brace over the weekend to lead Madrid to victory in El Clásico over Barça – and solidifying the Spanish giant’s grip at the top of the LaLiga table.

The Gerd Müller Trophy for best striker of the year was awarded to City forward Haaland. The prolific Norwegian scored 52 goals in his first season in Manchester, breaking several records along the way and driving the team towards the league, FA Cup and Champions League treble.

Manchester City won Men’s Club of the Year for the second season running after winning a treble and impressing the world with its style of play. Pep Guardiola’s men won the club’s first ever Champions League trophy after dominating Real Madrid in the semifinals and pipping Inter Milan in a tense final in Istanbul.

Barcelona Femení won Women’s Club of the Year for its standout year, which included three titles – Liga F, the Spanish Super Cup and the Women’s Champions League – and having a roster which included six Ballon d’Or Féminin nominees, including the winner, Bonmatí.

Full list of 2023 award winners

Men’s Ballon d’Or
Lionel Messi, Inter Miami and Argentina

Ballon d’Or Féminin
Aitana Bonmatí, Barcelona and Spain

Gerd Müller Trophy (Best Striker)
Erling Haaland, Manchester City and Norway

Yashin Trophy (Best Goalkeeper)
Emiliano Martínez, Aston Villa and Argentina

Kopa Trophy (Best Player Under 21)
Jude Bellingham, Borussia Dortmund/Real Madrid and England

Socrates Award (Awarded for recognition of humanitarian work)
Vinícius Jr., Real Madrid and Brazil

Men’s Club of the Year
Manchester City

Women’s Club of the Year
Barcelona Femení

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