Messi pipped Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk to the award, as well as five-time winner Ronaldo, for his first win of football’s top individual honor since 2015 to pull one win ahead of the Portuguese in their back-and-forth tussle for the title of the best player of their generation.
Portugal and Juventus star Ronaldo finished third, deciding to snub the ceremony in Paris after perhaps being tipped off that he would miss out on the top prize.
Messi was favorite to win the trophy despite losing out on the Champions League with Barcelona, with whom he won La Liga last season.
He also failed to guide his national team to victory in the Copa America, which some predicted may impact his chances of winning, though the award is more understandable once you consider that Messi won last season’s European Golden Shoe for the continent’s top scorer with a tally of 36 goals.
In addition, the 32-year-old was named the Best FIFA Men’s player in September, underscoring his what was another year of impressive achievement for Barcelona’s talisman.
The win re-establishes Messi as the world’s best player, 12 months on from Luka Modric being awarded the prize on the back of Croatia’s run to the World Cup Final last summer as well as Real Madrid’s successful Champions League campaign.
Liverpool’s outstanding defender Virgil van Dijk had appeared as if he was making a late run to be the first center-back to win the prize since Fabio Cannovaro in 2006, and just the third defender in the last three decades, but ultimately missed out to the Argentine maestro.
Meanwhile, Rapinoe was named player of the female World Cup and also scooped the FIFA Best Women’s Player earlier this year, signalling she would also take the Ballon d’Or prize.
England defender Lucy Bronze took second, while Rapinoe’s US teammate Alex Morgan was third.
The first award of the night in Paris was the Kopa Trophy for young player of the year, and went to Netherlands and Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt.
Liverpool and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson picked up the inaugural Yachine award for the world’s best goalkeeper.
The accolade is named after the legendary Russian stopper Lev Yashin, who remains the only keeper ever to win the Ballon d’Or award for best player.
Alisson was rewarded for a superb season in helping Liverpool to Champions League glory, also claiming the Copa America with Brazil.