Ballon d'Or: Five-timer Leo Messi on top of the world once again
Lionel Messi said it felt "incredible" after he was announced as the winner of the Ballon d'Or for a record fifth time.
The Barcelona superstar, who had already won the biggest individual accolade in world football more times than anyone else, extended his haul by reclaiming the award at a lavish ceremony in Zurich last night.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo - the winner of the World Player of the Year gong on three previous occasions, including in each of the last two years - traded places with his great rival to finish as runner-up.
Messi's fellow Barca frontman Neymar came third after a calendar year in which the Catalan outfit claimed five titles.
Twenty-eight-year-old Argentina international Messi, who scored 48 goals for his club in 2015, said after being presented the award by 2007 winner Kaka: "It is a very special moment for me to be back here on this stage, winning another Ballon d'Or after being in the audience watching Cristiano win.
"It's incredible that this is my fifth. It's much more than anything I dreamed of as a kid.
"I want to thank everyone who voted for me and I want to thank my team-mates - without them none of this would be possible.
"Lastly, I want to thank football in general for everything it has brought me, both the bad and the good, because it has made me grow and learn."
Messi - also the Ballon d'Or winner in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 - secured 41.33 per cent of the vote, with Portugal hitman Ronaldo getting 27.76 per cent and Brazil's Neymar 7.86 per cent.
Messi and Neymar helped Barca win the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble in 2015, plus the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup.
Ronaldo scored more goals than Messi over the calendar year, netting 54 for Madrid.
Neither man voted for the other in their respective top threes, with Messi choosing Barca team-mates Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta, and Ronaldo also selecting a trio of club colleagues in Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale.
The ceremony also saw Barca boss Luis Enrique take the men's World Coach of the Year award as he came ahead of his predecessor, Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola, and Chile's Copa America-winning Jorge Sampaoli.
John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Bale were the only British players to have made the 55-man shortlist for the FIFPro World XI, but none were included in a final line-up that featured four players each from Barca and Real, plus Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Paris St Germain defender Thiago Silva and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.
The Ballon d'Or is voted for by the national team managers and captains of affiliated Fifa nations.
Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis reflected the overall vote by having Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar as his 1-2-3. Manager Michael O'Neill went for Suarez as his top player, with Poland's Robert Lewandowski, who his team will come up against at the Euro 2016 finals in France this summer, his second choice.
O'Neill only had Messi in third place. Wales manager Chris Coleman and captain Ashley Williams both voted for their own star, Gareth Bale, as top player.
AWARD WINNERS: Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi; Women's World Player of the Year: Carli Lloyd; Puskas award: Wendell Lira; World Coach of the Year for men's football: Luis Enrique; World Coach of the Year for women's football: Jill Ellis; World XI: Manuel Neuer; Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves; Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric, Paul Pogba; Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo.