Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane to take the honours.
Now aged 32, it is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi scored 54 goals for club and country in the 2018-19 season as the Catalan giants won La Liga, while the Argentinian already has 11 goals to his name this season.
Messi succeeds Luka Modric, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder who won the prize last year.
Forward Mohamed Salah, Egypt’s national team player and Liverpool winger, ended up fifth.
Dutch Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk came second, Juventus striker Ronaldo third and Mane fourth.
It is the second year in a row for Salah to be nominated for the prestigious award held by French magazine France Football. He is the only Egyptian player to be nominated for the award, which was established in 1956.
Last year Salah came in sixth place.
The 27-year-old winger was nominated following an impressive year at Liverpool, leading them to their sixth Champions League title last May. He also won the Premier League Golden Boot for the second season in a row after netting 22 goals.
The former Roma man was also close to winning the Premier League with Liverpool, but the Reds ended their league campaign a point short of rivals Manchester City, who won the title with a tally of 98 points.
Salah’s ranking was affected by the early knockout of the Egyptian national team at the 2019 African Nations Cup held at home.
Salah was also hugely disappointed with his national team this year when it was discovered that Egypt did not vote for him in the 2019 Best Men’s Player of the Year Globe Soccer Award due to an administrative error by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). The EFA was fired en masse after the 2019 African Nations Cup disappointment and a newly-appointed committee took over for one year.
Despite missing out on the Premier League title, Salah managed to win the 2019 UEFA Super Cup in August after Liverpool defeated Chelsea on penalties.
Salah is no stranger to the Globe Soccer Awards having won the Best Arab Player award in 2016, topping Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Mehdi Benatia.
On Monday night, Liverpool teammate Mane of Senegal ended up fourth after a brilliant season with the Reds, leading the Teranga Lions to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations last July.
Algeria captain Mahrez came up 10th after lifting the Premier League trophy with Manchester City and the African Cup with the Desert Warriors.
Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20) and Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly (24) made it to the 30-man list of nominees released by France Football.
The European federation said that the choosing of the Team of the Year will be up for public voting to the fans, with the announcement set to take place on 9 January.
The Ballon d’Or was first conceived by France Football writer Gabriel Hanot in 1956 but prior to 1995 the award, voted for by football journalists, was confined to Europe. Liberia striker George Weah won in his first year of eligibility but is currently the only player from outside Europe or South America to win the prize.
Between 1991 and 2010 FIFA had its own World Player of the Year prize but for the five subsequent years the governing body and France Football jointly awarded the Ballon d’Or.
This partnership ended in 2016, after which FIFA began a ceremony named The Best Football Awards.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.