Lionel Messi wins men's Ballon d'Or for a record-extending seventh time, and Alexia Putellas becomes third winner of women's award for an outstanding season with Barcelona and Spain.

Messi (L) pipped much-fancied rivals like Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema to take the award, and Putellas says
Messi (L) pipped much-fancied rivals like Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema to take the award, and Putellas says "this is just the beginning." (Reuters)

Lionel Messi has admitted winning the Copa America with Argentina might have been the determining factor in him claiming the men's Ballon d'Or prize for the seventh time after a turbulent year, as Spain's Alexia Putellas took the women's award.

Now 34, Messi pipped much-fancied rivals like Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema to take the award in a glittering ceremony on Monday in Paris, the city he now calls home after leaving boyhood club Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in August.

Despite his tearful goodbye from Barcelona and his relatively underwhelming start to life in France, the jury of journalists from around the world rewarded him in particular for captaining Argentina to their first major international title since 1993.

"Two years ago I thought I was coming into my final years but here I am again back here," said Messi, who won the last edition of the Ballon d'Or in 2019 before last year's awards were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Messi also won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and in 2015.

Putellas wins women's title for first time

This is just the third year that a women's Ballon d'Or has been awarded, with Putellas following in the footsteps of Norway's Ada Hegerberg, winner in 2018, and the United States' 2019 World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe.

Spain international Putellas, 27, captained Barcelona to victory in this year's Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012 and who are fast becoming the dominant force in the women's game.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso was second, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

"I am sure I won't be the last Barcelona player to win the prize. This is just the beginning," said Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football's governing body UEFA.

Source: AFP