Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times… nearly a decade after Johan Cruyff predicted he would make history
Lionel Messi won a record seventh Ballon d’Or on Monday evening, beating the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho to the award.
The Argentine claimed the prestigious prize after leading his country to their first Copa America title in 28 years last summer.
Messi first won the Ballon d’Or twelve years ago – helping Barcelona compete “The Treble” under manager Pep Guardiola – before defending his crown 12 months later.
He was up for the award again in 2011 and, shortly before the recipient was confirmed in January 2012, Johan Cruyff was asked for his thoughts on Messi.
The Ajax and Barcelona legend was the first player to win the Ballon d’Or three times and reporters were keen to know if Messi could surpass his achievements.
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“He has already won two and he will be the player with the most Ballon d’Or [titles] in history,” Cruyff – who passed away in March 2016 – told Ole via Goal.
“Being the player that he is, he can still won many more. He will win five, six or seven.”
At the time, the idea of any player winning the Ballon d’Or seven times seemed inconceivable. On Monday, however, Messi turned that dream into reality.
“It’s incredible to be here again,” said the Paris Saint-Germain ace at the ceremony. “Two years ago I thought it was the last time.
“People were starting to ask me when I was going to retire but now I’m here in Paris and very happy. It’s a special year for me with this Copa America title.
“It meant a lot to win [1-0 against Brazil in the final] at the Maracana stadium and I was so happy to celebrate with the people from Argentina.
“I don’t know if it’s the best year of my life – I’ve had a long career – but it was a special one with the title with Argentina after the tough times and the criticism.”
Gary Lineker was keen to pay tribute to Messi on Twitter. “It’s a magnificent seven,” wrote the England legend.
“Congratulations to Lionel Messi on winning yet another Ballon d’Or. A truly extraordinary footballer and an absolute credit to the sport both on and off the pitch.”
Lewandowski, who came second in the vote, added: “I would like to congratulate Lionel Messi, Ballon d’Or Winner.”
Others, however, wanted Lewandowski to win this year’s Ballon d’Or after scoring 41 goals in 29 Bundesliga appearances last season.
“It is absolutely not deserved,” said Toni Kroos after hearing the news. “There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano [Ronaldo], has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should’ve been others ahead of him.”
Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas added: “It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards.
“Messi is one of the best but you have to know who is the most outstanding player after the season. It’s not that hard.”