Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for a record fifth time, once again confirming him as the greatest player of his generation.
The Barcelona forward surpassed teammate Neymar Jr. and Real Madrid archrival Cristiano Ronaldo, who made the shortlist of top three, to be declared the best player in the world of 2015.
Messi last won the award in 2012 after being knocked off his perch in 2013 and 2014 by Ronaldo.
The award was presented in front of top ranking figures of the soccer world in a black-tie ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, decided by a panel of international captains, managers and journalists.
“It is a very special moment for me to be back on this stage having watched Cristiano (Ronaldo) win it for the last two years,” said Messi, who looked emotional when given the award in Zurich’s Kongresshaus.
“It is incredible that it is my fifth Ballon d’Or, it is more than anything I could have dreamed of when I was a kid. I want to thank all my teammates as without them none of this would be possible. I also want to thank football for everything, both the good and the bad, it has made me learn.”
Soccer legend Zinedine Zidane won the Ballon d’Or three times, Ronaldinho twice and Luis Figo just once, making Messi’s feat of five times all the more impressive.
Congratulations to Lionel Messi on winning his 5th #BallondOr. Unbelievable achievement ����— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) January 11, 2016
Congratulation to Messi to the 5 FIFA Ballon d or amazing!!!��⚽️�� pic.twitter.com/u8YgrPMmw1— Luís Figo (@LuisFigo) January 11, 2016
Winning the award for an unprecedented fifth time follows years of record-breaking form for Messi, who has scored 458 goals for Barcelona. In the 2014-2015 campaign, he also broke the all-time goalscoring record in La Liga and Champions League history.
“When is he going to stop? It all depends on him, really. When it comes to difficult games, he is always there. He makes a difference when teams most need it. He can score any type of goal. He can be on the pitch for a little, score two goals then he goes home happy.”
In spite of the perceived rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, the two were complimentary about each other after the award.
Messi said of Ronaldo, “I don’t feel envy. That’s a negative trait. I like Cristiano. I am the way I am. He is the way he is.”
The Portuguese said, “His (Messi’s) left foot is really good. I’d like to have that.”
Neymar, at only 23-years-old, has enjoyed cracking form over the past season and looks sure to win the award in the future.
And at 30 years of age, Ronaldo’s time is surely running out.