Following the hiatus in 2020, the Ballon d'Or - one of football's most prestigious awards ceremony - returned on Monday night to honor the top performers of the 2021 calendar year. In the end, Lionel Messi won a record-extending seventh award ahead of last year's favorite Robert Lewandowski as Alexia Putellas also clinched the gong in the women's category.
Despite having a rather challenging season with Barcelona which ended with the Catalans winning only the Copa del Rey last season, the Argentine international significantly boosted his chances to win another Ballon d'Or by leading his national team to win the Copa America in July.
With Monday night's announcement, the forward added to his 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 trophies, having accumulated 613 points from the votes cast. Bayern Munich's Lewandowski, who was handed a compensatory top striker award, received 580 points with Chelsea's Jorginho finishing third with 460 points, ahead of Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kante.
"It's incredible to be here again," Messi said inside the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
"Two years ago I thought that it was my last year and now I am here again. I am very happy, very excited and wanting to fight for new challenges.
"I do not know how long I have left but I hope it will be a long time. I want to thank my teammates from Barcelona and PSG, and especially the Argentina team. I won this award and I had the feeling that I was missing something and this year I was able to achieve it.
"A large part of this trophy is because of what we did in the Copa America, so thanks to my teammates, this is also yours. My wife, my children, my father, my mother are here.
"It is a huge honor to fight with Robert [Lewandowski]. Last year you were the winner and I think France Football should give it to you."
in the women's category, Barcelona Femini Alexia Putellas beat her compatriot Jennifer Hermoso as well as Chelsea's Sam Kerr to the award. The Spaniard, who recently earned the UEFA Women's Player of the Year award, was a key member of Barcelona's treble-winning squad. In the Primera División, she had 18 goals and 12 assists, and she also scored in the 4-0 Women's Champions League final victory over Chelsea.
"I'm very emotional, it's a very special moment,' she said. "I would like to start by thanking all my teammates, especially my current [Barcelona] teammates. For me it's a collective success."
Meanwhile Barcelona's teenage midfielder Pedri was named the winner of the Kopa Trophy – the best under-21 player of 2021 ahead of Borussia Dortmun's Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala.
Gianluigi Donnarumma also turned heads by beating Chelsea's Eduoardo Mendy to the Yashin Trophy following his heroics in Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 campaign.
Chelsea was voted team of the year following their dramatic 1-0 victory over Manchester City in Porto in the UEFA Champions League.