Lionel Messi has said that he was not thinking about his long-term future as he sought to enjoy winning the eighth Ballon d’Or of his storied career.
Messi, 36, succeeded Karim Benzema as winner of the prize, awarded on the back of his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar.
“The last one I won was also thanks to what we achieved with the Argentinian national team in the Copa America (in 2021), but this one is much more special because it comes after we won the World Cup,” Messi said after collecting his award at a ceremony in Paris.
“That is the trophy everyone wants to win the most, and it was a dream come true for me, my teammates and my country.”
He dragged Argentina to a victory that crowned his remarkable career and saw off stiff competition for the Ballon d’Or from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.
Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin de Bruyne in fourth.
Messi scored seven times at the World Cup and was named the tournament’s Best Player after Argentina beat France on penalties in the final in Doha.
Yet Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, also had an underwhelming final season at Paris Saint-Germain, before leaving to play for Inter Miami in the Major League Soccer.
He played down suggestions he could win another Ballon d’Or, possibly after the next World Cup in 2026, when he will be 39.
“I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day to day at the moment,” he said.
“We have a Copa America coming up in the United States, where I am now, in which we are the holders, so I am looking forward to coming into that in good shape… then just see how I am getting on from there.”
Messi admitted on his return to the French capital that his two-year stint at PSG had not turned out the way he imagined upon signing from Barcelona in 2021.
“Things didn’t turn out as I hoped but I enjoyed the city a lot, and my kids liked it a lot and found it hard to leave.
“It is a spectacular city and I was lucky to live here. Football-wise, it did not go the way I hoped but I prefer to remember the many good things,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Aitana Bonmati, herself a fellow World Cup champion, said her award was testimony to Spain’s football culture, after her triumph kept the trophy in the country for the third year in a row on Monday.
Bonmati, a Champions League winner with Barcelona and World Cup winner with Spain, succeeds fellow Spaniard Alexia Putellas, who was also the 2021 winner.
“Spain has something unique. In recent years, we have achieved a lot with our clubs and the national team. It says a lot that we won the Ballon d’Or three times in a row. We are a country that lives football, and we work hard every day to be the best,” said the midfielder.
While she has now won the biggest titles in the sport, Bonmati still has the sparkle and motivation to reach new heights.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I’m nervous. I haven’t slept for a few days. Being at the great gala of world football is unique and to be valued,” the 25-year-old said.
“I play for a big club and for the national team. In both, I have the best players and coaches. With the club, we’ve been reaching the Champions League final for three years in a row, which is difficult and says a lot about the mentality we have. I’m confident… we’re going to win more titles.”