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Messi wins Ballon d’Or for eighth time

PARIS (AFP) Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or for the eighth time in his career at a star-studded ceremony in Paris on Monday.

Messi, 36, succeeds Karim Benzema as winner of the prize, awarded for his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup.

Inter Miami CF’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (C) reacts with his trophy next to his children on stage as he receives his 8th Ballon d’Or award next to Former English football player and Inter Miami’s co-owner David Beckham (L) during the 2023 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on October 30, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

It was his displays in Qatar, when Messi dragged his country to a victory that crowned his remarkable career, that allowed Messi to see off stiff competition from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.

Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin De Bruyne in fourth place.

Former Barcelona superstar 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 Major League Soccer.

His old PSG teammate Mbappe made his case with his remarkable performances at the World Cup, which he finished as the top scorer on eight goals after netting a hat-trick in the final for France.

Norway striker Haaland scored an incredible 52 goals in 53 games for Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s side won the treble of English Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

He and De Bruyne were among members of that City team who were nominated.