On Tuesday night Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi became the only player ever to be awarded football's highest individual honour the Ballon d'Or for a seventh time, rewarding a year that saw him finally win a major trophy - the Copa America - with Argentina.
Lionel Messi struck another blow in his long-standing rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo as he was awarded the record-extending seventh Ballon d'or in a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Tuesday night.
The award, accorded by France Football magazine since 1956 to the most outstanding player in the world during that calendar year, has been dominated by the Argentine and his Portuguese rival over the last two decades, but now the Paris Saint-Germain man is two length ahead of his Manchester United counterpart, who has five to his name.
It was a tumultuous year for Messi, whose joy in finally leading Argentina to its first major trophy since 1993's Copa America title and winning the Cope del Rey with Barcelona was tempered by a - forgive the pun - messy departure from his club of 21 years before moving to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
'A special one'
"It's incredible to be here again. Two years ago I thought it was the last time. Winning the Copa America was key. It is a special year for me with this Copa America title. It meant a lot to win at the Maracana stadium and I was so happy to celebrate with the people from Argentina," Messi said. "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."
Messi fended off strong competition from Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandwoski, who finished second while also being awarded Striker of the Year for his club-record 53-goal season, and Chelsea's Brazil-born Italy midfielder Jorginho with his Champions League and Euro titles.
Meanwhile Messi's club teammate Gianluigi Donnarumma was awarded Goalkeeper of the Year.