Inter Miami’s Messi, the winner of the award in 2021, played a crucial role in leading Argentina to their first World Cup title in 36 years in Qatar last season.

The 36-year-old is now three Ballons d’Or ahead of his rival Cristiano Ronaldo, whose last win was in 2017 with five trophies in total. Messi has now finished in the top three a record 14 times, finishing as runner-up five times.

“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I have had. Everything that I have achieved. The privilege of playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It is satisfying to win these individual awards. It is incredible to win the Copa America and then the World Cup,” said Messi.

“All of the Ballon d’Or awards are special for different reasons,” he added.

“I am happy to receive this recognition thanks to what we have accomplished with the national team,” Messi told Reuters.

“This World Cup title that we had been chasing for so many years makes it even more special.”

When asked if he would continue playing until the 2026 World Cup, Messi replied, “I don’t think about it. I will enjoy my career day by day. First, there will be the Copa America in the United States in 2024. The World Cup is not something I think about.”

Earlier, Messi’s World Cup-winning teammate Emiliano Martinez won the Lev Yashin award for the world’s best goalkeeper.

Spain’s Women’s World Cup winner and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati won the women’s Ballon d’Or.

“It’s an individual trophy, but it can’t exist without a team,” she told reporters.

Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009 and then four in a row until 2012, finished second to Haaland at the UEFA awards in August. Haaland, 23, was one of the favorites for his first Ballon d’Or after scoring 52 goals in 53 matches in all competitions last season as City won the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup.

However, Argentina’s incredible run at the World Cup in Qatar, where Messi won the Golden Ball for the best overall player and the Silver Boot with seven goals and three assists, helped him edge out the Norwegian striker for the award.

The World Cup was the only major trophy missing from Messi’s resume, and Argentina made up for their loss in the 2014 final to Germany. In March, Messi also became only the third player in history to score 100 international goals.

Messi also won the Ligue 1 title with Paris St. Germain before moving to Inter Miami, where he helped the Major League Soccer side win the Leagues Cup, their first major trophy.

Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham won the Kopa Trophy for the best Under-21 player, while his club teammate Vinicius Jr. was awarded the Socrates Award for his humanitarian work off the pitch.