Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the 2019 Ballon d'Or by a slender seven-point margin, the award's organisers have confirmed.

France Football declared Messi's record sixth victory to be among the narrowest in the 63-year history of the prestigious prize.

The Barcelona captain finished top of the count with 686 points, just ahead of Liverpool defender Van Dijk's 679.

Third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not attend Monday's ceremony, tallied 476 points, 210 fewer than long-time rival Messi.

Sadio Mane, fourth on 347 points, was the only other player to exceed the 200-mark.

"The history of the award has had tighter scores, but the number of voting journalists - 176 this year - was [in the past] much smaller," read a post on France Football's website.

Runner-up Van Dijk praised Messi's "unnatural" ability and said he had complete respect for the 32-year-old.

When asked about five-time winner Ronaldo's absence, he joked: "Was he a candidate?"

Ronaldo's sister, singer Katia Aveiro, failed to see the funny side of the light-hearted comment, firing back at the Dutchman in a lengthy Instagram rant.

"Now, dear Virgil, where you are going, Cristiano Ronaldo has gone and has come a thousand times," she wrote.

"You see, my dear Virgil, that Cristiano Ronaldo was a three-time champion in the country where you have been playing for years and you still haven't got your hand on the trophy.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was even the best player and best scorer in the country where you play Virgil. By the way, he was even younger than you. Then, dear Virgil, Cristiano Ronaldo went to other places and became the greatest player in the history of a club... this club, with this Cristiano guy, even beat you in the Champions League final.

"Of these [Ballons d'Or], Ronaldo already has five, Virgil."

2019 Ballon d'Or points

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 686
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) - 679
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) - 476
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) - 347
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) - 178
6. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) - 89
7. Alisson (Liverpool) - 67
8. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) - 44
9. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) - 41
10. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) - 33

Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski labelled Lionel Messi "one of the best in history" after the Barcelona star claimed a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

Messi finished ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award in Paris on Monday.

Lewandowski, who placed eighth, paid tribute to Messi for his dominance for more than a decade.

"For sure he is a great player. I can only say congratulations to him," he told reporters.

"It's not the first time for him, one of the best in history not just the last few years.

"I'm glad to be close to so many players because we only get to meet each other on the pitch and now this is something different.

"For sure he is a great player, not just the past year but for 10, 15 years."

Lewandowski, 31, is enjoying another brilliant season for Bayern, already up to 27 goals in 21 games in all competitions.

The German giants are fourth in the Bundesliga, four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, but Lewandowski feels his side will only grow.

"I think everything that we are doing now this season and in the Champions League group stage will pay dividends in the future for next year, next season and I think with Bayern Munich we can play better and better," Lewandowski said.

"We have so many great players with potential and I think next season will be something special and I think we can do big things."

Barcelona star Lionel Messi believes his record of six Ballon d'Or awards will be broken.

Messi, 32, claimed the prize for a sixth time in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

While only Ronaldo has also won the award at least five times, Messi feels someone can get more than six.

"I think so. I don't know who but it's possible," he told reporters.

"Records are made to be beaten, but I don't know who or when. But at the moment I hold the record and I'm very happy."

Messi won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009 before his dominance led to him claiming the prize in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and this year.

The Argentina international said: "It was unimaginable to win one, let alone six.

"It's a joy to get six, it's very nice the recognition from others and it makes me proud."

Giorgio Chiellini was happy for Lionel Messi to win this year's Ballon d'Or, but the Juventus defender blasted the "theft" that meant Cristiano Ronaldo missed out in 2018.

Barcelona star Messi claimed the prize for a record sixth time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ronaldo.

It came a year after Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric ended the 10-year dominance of Messi and Ronaldo, but it was that decision that upset Chiellini.

"It's OK the Ballon d'Or for Messi this year," the Juve captain told Sky Sport Italia at the Gran Gala del Calcio awards in Milan on Monday.

"The real theft was last year. Real Madrid decided that Cristiano should not win the Ballon d'Or. It was really strange."

Chiellini added: "Real didn't want him to win because he was no longer one of their players."

Ronaldo joined Juventus from Madrid in July last year, and was on Monday named the Serie A player of the year for 2018-19.

Juve and Ronaldo are yet to get to their best this season, now sitting a point adrift of leaders Inter through 14 Serie A games.

"I said that the real Juve will be seen at least from January. We need time," Chiellini said.

"We started very well with a great month and a half, then we suffered a bit of physiological decline, but the results weren't missed.

"Without the draw against Sassuolo [on Sunday], we would talk about super Juve."

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has officially been named the best player in Serie A last season, a few hours after Lionel Messi beat him to a record sixth Ballon d'Or crown.

Ronaldo dodged the glitzy Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris on Monday to instead attend the annual Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan, where he was honoured for his successful maiden campaign with Juve.

He scored 21 league goals in 2018-19 to help the Bianconeri to an eighth successive Scudetto and has six goals in 11 starts this term, despite injury issues curtailing his playing time over the past month.

"It is a proud moment to win this award," Ronaldo said upon collecting the award, which was won by Mauro Icardi, then of Inter, 12 months ago.

"I want to thank my Juventus team-mates. It was my first year in Serie A, a difficult league, and I am very happy. Thank you for voting for me.

"I will now try to repeat what I've done over the next year."

Ronaldo has been struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks and reacted angrily to being hauled off in wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and Milan last month.

However, Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici insisted the Portugal international – who finished third in the Ballon d'Or running behind Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk – will remain in Turin beyond the end of the campaign.

"This talk makes me smile because there are other problems," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"Ronaldo is ambitious and came to Juventus to prove he is the best here too. We thought he should have won the Ballon d'Or – the rankings are always questionable.

"He will be a Juventus player next season, without a doubt. 

"We must thank him for making himself available to [Maurizio] Sarri, even though he has not been in optimal condition. Having not been able to train properly for a while, it is normal that he is not at his best."

Lionel Messi received the Ballon d'Or trophy from 2018 winner Luka Modric on Monday, with the Real Madrid midfielder then congratulating Barcelona's forward on social media.

Modric ended Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's 10-year duopoly on the prestigious prize last year having helped Croatia reach the World Cup final after winning a third successive Champions League with Real Madrid.

It was Messi's turn to win the award again this year, though, as he claimed a record sixth Ballon d'Or having scored 41 goals in 44 club appearances so far across the calendar year.

Messi was LaLiga's top scorer in 2018-19 as Barcelona beat Real Madrid to the title, though that did not stop Modric praising a star on the other side of the Clasico divide.

"Sports and football are not just about winning, they're also about respect for your team-mates and rivals," he wrote on his social media accounts alongside a picture of him handing Messi the award.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi acknowledged "the moment of withdrawal is approaching" after picking up a record sixth Ballon d'Or crown at Monday's ceremony in Paris.

Messi saw off stiff competition from Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to win the award for the first time since 2015, moving him one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished third.

The 32-year-old has scored 41 goals in 44 club appearances this calendar year, but he is unsure just how long he will be able to maintain his incredible goalscoring form.

Speaking on stage after collecting the prestigious accolade, a decade on from his first triumph, Messi said: "To the journalists and my colleagues with whom I win and lose, I remember my first Ballon D'Or in Paris, when I arrived with my brothers, now I pick up the sixth, and this was absolutely unthinkable. 

"I never stopped dreaming and enjoying football like when I was a child. I hope I have more years to enjoy, although I am aware of how old I am, everything happens very quickly and I know that the moment of withdrawal is approaching."

Messi is into his 16th season with Barcelona and made his 700th appearance for the LaLiga champions in last week's 3-1 win against Borussia Dortmund.

The Ballon d'Or award has now been won by a player from Spain's top flight in each of the last 11 campaigns, with Luka Modric temporarily breaking Messi and Ronaldo's stronghold on the prize last year.

Virgil van Dijk conceded he had to "respect greatness" after losing out on the 2019 Ballon d'Or to Lionel Messi.

Barcelona and Argentina forward Messi won the prize for a record sixth time having scored 41 times in 44 club appearances for Barcelona, with whom he won a 10th LaLiga title last season.

Success in the Champions League eluded him, though, as Van Dijk helped Liverpool oust Barcelona in the semi-finals en route to a sixth triumph in Europe's most premier club competition.

Van Dijk's performances for the Reds in that competition and with Nations League finalists Netherlands ensured he finished second in the voting for the Ballon d'Or, though he had no qualms about being pipped to the prize by Messi.

"It was amazing," Van Dijk said of his 2019.

"Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him that are a bit unnatural, I think.

"They're fantastic. Six-time Ballon d'Or [winner], you need to respect greatness as well. I was close but there was just someone a little bit better.

"I'm very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool, Holland and hopefully we can do that again this year.

"It's going to be tough as long as these guys are around still."

While Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished third in the voting, have long been considered greats, 28-year-old Van Dijk has had a slower rise to the top.

The former Groningen, Celtic and Southampton defender only won his first international cap four years ago and thinks the recognition he has recently received is a reflection of his attitude.

"I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d'Or until I was actually nominated," Van Dijk added.

"It says a lot about how my career has been. It's never been easy. My career is just different to the winner here.

"I came late but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work hard every step of the way. Where I am right now is something I'm very proud of."

Lionel Messi's uncanny ability to create history continued with a record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or on Monday.

The decade-long monopoly on football's most prestigious individual prize held by the Barcelona great and Cristiano Ronaldo was broken a year ago by Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric.

But once again it was Messi's name on the prize as he added to the Ballons d'Or he won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Below, with the help of Opta data, we have scrutinised the numbers behind each of the years Messi has been named the world's best.

2009

Could there really have been any other winner in a year in which Messi swept every major honour? There were six collective titles in total as Pep Guardiola's star-studded class won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League, the Supercopa a Espana, the Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Messi contributed 22 goals and 10 assists in LaLiga across the calendar year, while adding a respective six and two in the Champions League.

2010

A year later and there were fewer trophies - just a LaLiga and Supercopa to add to his tally - but it was another phenomenal year for Messi, who scored 58 goals in just 54 appearances for Barcelona – meaning he had a goals-to-games ratio of 1.07. He celebrated 42 of those in just 36 LaLiga games, while he managed a goal a game across 12 appearances in the Champions League. 

2011

A third straight Ballon d'Or arrived in 2011 and justifiably so. The only major honour missing from the list was a Copa del Rey, with Messi again the figurehead in a Barca team that won LaLiga and the Champions League. There were fewer goals, 55 in 57 games across all competitions, but 25 assists was a mark-up from his 2010 numbers.

2012

The last of four in a row and, while Messi had just a Copa del Rey to show for his efforts, individually it was an astonishing 12 months for the Argentina great. In 60 appearances, Messi scored a scarcely believable 79 goals – 59 of which were in LaLiga and 13 in the Champions League. That made for an astonishing 1.32 goals per game, while he added 21 assists for good measure.

2015

In the two years prior and after, it was his great rival Ronaldo who would dominate the Ballon d'Or. But in 2015 there was really ever only one likely winner as Messi formed a devastating trio with Neymar and Luis Suarez under Luis Enrique to win a LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble – with a Super Cup and Club World Cup thrown in for good measure. The individual stats did not quite match those of three years previously but he still contributed a mightily impressive 48 goals and 23 assists across 53 appearances.

2019

For a player considered by many as the best to ever play the game, it seems fitting that Messi should hold the record for most Ballons d'Or. This year has thus far been just as sensational as his previous five triumphs, with 41 goals and 15 assists in 44 appearances. Messi also won LaLiga for a 10th time – the most of any Barcelona player in history.

Lionel Messi edged out Virgil van Dijk to claim the Ballon d'Or for a record sixth time on Monday.

The Barcelona superstar climbed four places from his 2018 ranking as he beat runner-up Van Dijk and third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo to the most prestigious individual accolade in European club football.

Messi's win, announced at a ceremony in Paris, is his first since 2015 and moves him one ahead of long-time rival Ronaldo.

Luka Modric ended the pair's monopoly 12 months ago but even a Champions League triumph for Liverpool defender Van Dijk failed to keep Messi from reclaiming his crown.

The brilliant Argentina international continues to uphold near-unparalleled standards a decade on from his maiden Ballon d'Or victory.

Messi's winner against Atletico Madrid on Sunday was his 41st goal in 44 club appearances in 2019.

He has added 15 assists in that time and was LaLiga's top scorer last term as Barca cruised to the title.

In September, Messi was named The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2019, with Van Dijk in second spot and Ronaldo third.

That such brilliance at a key moment of a pivotal game felt somehow inevitable underlined how much Lionel Messi has spoiled us for so long.

Needing to dart in-field towards a packed defence on a sodden playing surface, before receiving a bouncing return pass 20 yards from goal, with one of the world's best goalkeepers between the posts.

Those would not represent favourable circumstances for any other player. But when Messi drew back his left boot to caress a side-footed finish, Atletico Madrid number one Jan Oblak knew what was coming. So did the 64,226 fans inside the Wanda Metropolitano and they had about as much chance of averting a 1-0 defeat.

The arc of the ball, low into the left corner, mimicked his last-gasp Clasico winner at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2017. Another showreel moment in a career bursting with them.

As usual, with Barcelona nudging back ahead of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga on the eve of the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris, Messi's timing was impeccable.

"I don't follow these awards galas because they are too long," said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde afterwards, luxuriating in his embattled door-to-door salesman demeanour. "But if you have to give it to the best, let's just give it to Messi and the problem is solved."

Messi = problem solved. It's been the story of Valverde's Barcelona tenure to an even larger extent than it was for his predecessors

Normal service resumed?

The 32-year-old is tipped to collect the sixth Ballon d'Or of his career in the French capital on Monday and once again move ahead of eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the overall standings.

If he does, it will be natural to sympathise with Virgil van Dijk, insofar as the Liverpool and Netherlands centre-back's bravura campaign came the year after Luka Modric was a celebrated recipient of the game's grandest individual honour.

Champions League glory with Real Madrid and inspiring Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, embellishing a career of sustained excellence and artistry, made Modric a worthy candidate. But his cause was helped by a thirst for it simply to be someone else. Those 50-goal seasons had become so run of the mill.

Messi or Ronaldo had taken home the prize every year since Kaka triumphed in 2007. Now Modric has served as a kind of sorbet for that decade of footballing decadence, Van Dijk might suffer for the fact nobody needs their palate cleansed anymore.

It will be Messi's first Ballon d'Or since 2015, which is the only time he has been officially declared as the best player in the word in the past five years. Last year, he failed to make the top three. That same inevitability that served him so well in a damp Madrid on Sunday night has hindered him in this regard.

Messidependencia 3.0

Messi's stellar career can be roughly broken down into three acts.

The prodigious youngster blessed with the easiest touch you've ever seen, phenomenal awareness and blistering acceleration – he didn't walk as much back then – was instantly noteworthy at Barcelona before becoming the shimmering jewel in Pep Guardiola's all-conquering side around the turn of the last decade.

Under Luis Enrique, the emphasis shifted from super-team to superstar forward line and Messi dazzled alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar. MSN swept all before them on the way to a treble in 2014-15, an attack of potent brilliance unlike anything else.

In between those two periods, during the reign of the late Tito Vilanova, talk of Barca's "Messidependencia" really began to grow. He scored an absurd 70 goals in the 2012-13 season.

Guardiola joked that pouring over the tactical intricacies of his Barca side was futile, given the plan was simply to give Messi the ball. Valverde would not laugh that one off so easily because the Blaugrana have never depended on their captain as much as they do right now.

The huge drop-off in standards when Barcelona are without Messi is startling and last season's Copa del Rey offered a clear demonstration. He was rested for the first leg of ties against Levante and Sevilla, they lost both and he was recalled each time to score in comfortable return wins.

Van Dijk has a decent claim to being the next most important player in world football when tying the presence of an individual to the fortunes of a team. The Dutchman's £75million arrival from Southampton transformed a destructive but inconsistent side into a relentless winning machine.

If Liverpool continue their unblinking Premier League form, Van Dijk can expect to be in contention for the Ballon d'Or next year. And why shouldn't they?

Jurgen Klopp can call upon 2019's answer to MSN in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, while their star centre-back is flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson – probably the best pair of full-backs any club can boast.

The team-man in the one-man team

Beyond goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose heroics against Atletico laid the foundations for Messi's own, it is hard to make a strong case for any of his Barca team-mates being serious contenders for a world XI. Frenkie de Jong, perhaps, but that would owe much to his body of work at Ajax.

It seems laughable to think one of the arguments made by Messi detractors during those interminable Leo v CR7 debates was that he only succeeded because of the Barcelona team in which he played. Then as now, it was a case of brilliance being taken for granted.

"I'd like to have an explanation about Leo, the talent he has," Valverde said after his key man's latest masterstroke.

"But not just that, because there are a lot of people with talent. Leo's can be seen always. He has an ambition and a sense of obligation with the club, which you see in every game."

Just because Messi does these things all the time doesn't make them any less remarkable. He is a team-man and a one-man team who continues to stand above the rest.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has insisted there will be "no losers" when the Ballon d'Or winner is announced in Paris on Monday.

The Premier League star ranks among the leading contenders to take home the most coveted individual honour in European club football.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi looks most likely to claim the award, but the five-time winner faces stiff competition from Van Dijk.

The bedrock on which Liverpool built their Champions League triumph, the 28-year-old also captained his country to the Nations League final and was named UEFA Men's Player of the Year in August.

"I am going to be there for a reason and there are no losers on the evening," Van Dijk said.

"I am very proud to be in that bracket, to be in there for the way I performed with the team last year and also with the country.

"It is just something to be proud of because not a lot of players go there and are up for these kind of things."

While a win for Van Dijk would be his first, another for Messi would move the incredible Argentinian clear of Cristiano Ronaldo and into outright first on the leaderboard.

The 32-year-old scored the lone goal for Barca in a 1-0 LaLiga win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday, his 11th in all competitions this term.

Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez was left exasperated by the attacker's brilliance.

"We played a great game, [Barca] did not have many chances, but then Messi appears and does what he does with terrible ease," Saul said.

"That is why he is the best."

Guillermo Amor praised Lionel Messi's "genius" for helping Barcelona overcome Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

Messi's wonderful 86th-minute goal was enough for Barca to edge to a 1-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano and return to the top of the table.

The forward has been in spectacular form and Amor – Barcelona's director of institutional and sporting relations – praised Messi's latest piece of magic.

"Leo has been back to his level again," Amor told Movistar.

"It is a match won by the teams. Atletico is a great team and could have taken the game too. It has been fairly even.

"There have been several phases during the match – a start very strong by Atletico, then we have reacted and we have finished at a good level. In the second half we have controlled and dominated.

"We have not let them out and in the end a genius of Leo has decided it."

Messi has scored nine goals in his past seven LaLiga games, but Barca also needed a good performance from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Amor praised the shot-stopper and said Barca would have been content with a draw away to Atletico.

"Leo gives us a lot and we needed him more than ever because he puts the team in the game when the team is not there. It makes the rest participate more," he said.

"Ter Stegen has also been magnificent... we could have drawn and it would not have been a bad result, but we are very happy with the victory."

Barcelona's next outing is a clash at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said having Lionel Messi "is always a huge advantage" after his match-winning performance against Atletico Madrid.

Messi scored a stunning 86th-minute winner to lead Barca past Atletico 1-0 and back to the LaLiga summit on Sunday.

Barca were far from their best against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano, but another moment of magic from talisman Messi ensured the LaLiga champions leapfrogged Real Madrid in the standings.

Asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi post-match, Valverde told reporters: "In games which are even and hard, to have Leo is always a huge advantage."

While Barca were second best to Atletico for periods of the blockbuster showdown in Madrid, Valverde was happy with his team.

"I liked everything. We suffered at the start and we've got the three points," Valverde said. "We don't have to think about the bad things now."

Valverde added: "You have to suffer here but we have won and picked up three really important points, which is what is important.

"We expected Atletico to start as they did. We had to be strong in the first 20 minutes. They were doing damage on every attack. As the game went on, we got more control and both sides had clear chances. We had the better of the second half." 

Valverde also allayed injury concerns over Gerard Pique, who was forced off with seven minutes remaining in the Spanish capital.

"I think he's OK," the Spaniard said. "He could have carried on, but better not to risk him."

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