Messi and Rapinoe expected to take Ballon d’Or honours

PARIS (AFP) – The biggest names in world football will descend on Paris tonight for the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony, with Lionel Messi and United States (US) women’s World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe tipped to leave with the honours.

It would be an enormous shock if Rapinoe did not depart the Chatelet Theatre with the women’s prize as she returns to the country where she was the driving force on and off the field for the US as they retained their title.

The suspense surrounds the identity of the men’s winner, 12 months after Croatia’s Luka Modric claimed the crown last season.

That ended a decade in which Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had won the Ballon d’Or five times each, but the smart money now is on the Barcelona man claiming number six.

There are 30 nominees in total for the prize.

Among the names is Ronaldo, as well as several of the stars of the Liverpool side who won the Champions League, chief among them Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.

Messi already pipped him to FIFA’s The Best title in September.

The 32-year-old was the top scorer in La Liga last season with 36 goals as Barcelona won the title. He did not have a great Copa America with Argentina, but his genius is undeniable.

“If you give the Ballon d’Or to the best player of this generation then you should give it always to Lionel Messi,” admitted Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.