Lionel Messi has captured his fifth Ballon d’Or, according to multiple sources.
The 28-year-old Argentine footballer beat out rival Cristaino Ronaldo (second) and teammate Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (third-who was nominated for the first time) with more than 40 percent of the votes to take home the award for the world’s top soccer player in 2015 Monday at the Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich, Switzerland.
Messi is the first and only individual to win the award five times and has put an end to Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s attempt to win the award for the third year in a row (a feat previously accomplished by Messi).
“It is a very special moment for me to be back here on this stage, winning again another Ballon d’Or after being there in the audience watching Cristiano win,” the left-footed forward said, as his young family watched in the crowd.
“It’s incredible this is my fifth. It’s much more than anything I’ve dreamed of as a kid. I want to thank everyone who voted for me and I want to thank my teammates. And lastly, I want to thank football in general for everything it has brought me. Both the bad and the good. Because it has made me learn and grow.”
The award caps off a mesmerizing year for the left-footed Barcelona forward whose footwork and finesse on the pitch has long been considered among the best to ever grace the game of soccer.
The Argentinian superstar netted 52 goals in 61 games along with 26 assists in 2015. He averaged a goal every 101 minutes and was directly involved in 49 goals in La Liga, which was the joint most across the top five European leagues in 2015 with runner-up Ronaldo.
His impressive individual numbers translated into team success in 2015 as he lead Barcelona to victories in five of six club tournaments in 2015 including it’s 23rd Spanish championship over Ronaldo and Real Madrid this past year.
Just this past August Messi was named the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Best Player in Europe, garnering 49 out of 53 votes, and claiming the title for the second time in his iconic career.
After winning the award the previous two years runner-up, Cristiano Ronaldo conceded to Messi – admitting before the ceremony that his Argentine counterpart’s magical run in 2015 was deserving of the award despite the Portugal star netting five more goals in 2015 (57) in as many games than Messi.
Despite not winning the coveted award, Ronaldo did help his country, Portugal, earn a bid to compete in the Euro 2016 finals in France, while also surpassing Messi as the all-time top scorer in the Champions League in 2015.
The two have won the past seven Ballon d’Ors and are easily considered the top two footballers out there despite neither of the two being able to bring their country (Messi-Argentina, Ronaldo-Portugal) a World Cup title.
Messi did reach the 2014 World Cup final, but couldn’t outlast the quality of play by international powerhouse, Germany.
American star Carli Lloyd was awarded the women’s Ballon d’Or after leading the United States to a World Cup victory over Japan this past year along with becoming the first female to net a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
She’s only the third American to claim the award, joining teammate Abby Wambach and legend Mia Hamm.
“This has been a dream of mine ever since I started my journey with the national team,” Lloyd said, thanking her teammates and national coach Jill Ellis.
(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)