LIONEL MESSI has won his SEVENTH Ballon d’Or crown – beating Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prestigious award.
The Argentine, 34, now leads arch-rival Ronaldo – who finished SIXTH – by two Ballons d’Or in their race to be crowned football’s true GOAT.
Messi got his hands on No7 on Monday night having also won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019.
The Paris Saint-Germain star finished ahead of Lewandowski, who had to settle for second place despite his goal-laden year – after missing out as favourite for the cancelled prize last year.
But it was extremely close as Messi – who scored 613 points in the voting – finishing just 33 points ahead of Lewandowski (580).
Chelsea star Jorginho (460) took third with team-mate N’Golo Kante in fifth – and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema coming in fourth.
Jorginho had helped Chelsea – who won Club of the Year at the ceremony – triumph in the Champions League before playing a huge part in Italy’s charge to the Euro 2020 title.
There had been calls for the midfielder to win the award, but he had to settle for the bronze medal on the night.
Despite his spectacular year and being one of the favourites, Liverpool star Mohamed Salah was forced to settle for seventh – one spot behind Ronaldo.
Ahead of the ceremony, Ronaldo broke his silence after opting to skip the 2021 glitzy bash in Paris.
The Manchester United star, 36, has won five Ballons d’Or during his glittering career.
Earlier this week, Pascal Ferre, the editor in chief of France Football – organisers of the Ballon d’Or – claimed Ronaldo had revealed to him his only career goal was to win more Ballons d’Or than Messi.
But Ronaldo has hit back with a fiery statement on Instagram, saying Ferre ‘lied’ to ‘promote his publication’.
In losing out to Messi, Ronaldo now sits two gongs behind his rival – with time rapidly running out of time to close the deficit.
Meanwhile, Lewandowski was forced to settle for the new Striker of the Year award, missing out on the Ballon d’Or itself.
MESSI HAILS LEW
Messi hailed the Bayern striker during his acceptance speech, saying: He said: “I would like to mention Robert Lewandowski, it’s been a real honour to compete with you.
“Everyone knows and we agree that you were the winner last year.
“I think France Football should award you your 2020 Ballon d’Or – you deserve it and you should have it at home.”
Gianluigi Donnarumma – who saved two penalties against England in the Euro 2020 final shootout – won the Goalkeeper of the Year award, beating Chelsea and Senegal star Edouard Mendy.
Donnarumma also finished tenth in the main Ballon d’Or standings, behind Kylian Mbappe (ninth) and Kevin de Bruyne (eighth).
Barcelona and Spain whiz Pedri won the Kopa Trophy for best young player, beating England trio Jude Bellingham (second), Mason Greenwood (fifth) and Bukayo Saka (sixth).
In a touching moment, Messi was spotted beaming with pride as his old club-mate was presented with his gong.
Another Barca and Spain star won the Women’s Ballon d’Or – as Alexia Putellas walked away with the trophy.