Lionel Messi wins Fifa's Ballon d'Or for record fifth time
The awards were co-hosted by James Nesbitt
Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has won FIFA's Ballon d'Or for a record fifth time.
The Barcelona forward reclaimed the biggest individual accolade in world football at a lavish ceremony in Zurich tonight beating Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, the three-time winner he has been runner-up behind for the last two years.
He also finished ahead of fellow Barca frontman Neymar after a calendar year in which the Catalan outfit claimed five titles.
Northern Ireland actor James Nesbitt and TV presenter Kate Abdo co-hosted the ceremony.
The 50-year-old Cold Feet star admitted he would be the most starstruck person in Zurich.
"You've got Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar... then there's me, who used to play for Broughshane Boys' Brigade," said Nesbitt, who admits to being "as surprised as anyone else" he was asked to co-host one of the biggest nights in world football.
Argentina international Messi, who scored 48 goals for his club in 2015, said after being presented the award by 2007 Ballon d'Or winner Kaka: "It is a very special moment for me to be back here on this stage, winning again another Ballon d'Or after being there in the audience watching Cristiano win.
"It's incredible this is my fifth. It's much more than anything I've 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."
Lionel Messi in numbers:
We look at some of the 28-year-old Argentina international's numbers during his career.
1 - Messi is the only player to have won more than three FIFA Ballon d'Or awards, his latest success following his wins in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
52 - Goals Messi scored in all competitions for Barcelona and Argentina in 2015.
430 - Career goals Messi has scored in all official competitions for Barcelona, having played in 503 games.
0.85 - Goals per game average for Barcelona.
26 - Titles won by Messi with Barcelona, a club record shared with Andres Iniesta.
295 - Primera Division goals scored by Messi, 44 more than second-best Telmo Zarra.
28 - Hat-tricks for Barcelona.
49 - Career goals for Argentina, in 105 matches.
16 - Age at which Messi made his Barcelona first-team debut.
91 - Goals scored by Messi in 2012, breaking the calendar-year record set by German Gerd Muller in 1972.
58,000,000 - Twitter mentions for Messi in 2015.
Fifa Ballon d'Or 2015: Lionel Messi
FIFA Women's World Player of the Year: Carli Lloyd
FIFA Puskás Award: Wendell Lira
FIFA World Coach of the Year (Men's): Luis Enrique
FIFA World Coach of the Year (Women's): Jill Ellis
FIFA FIFPro World XI: Neuer; Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves; Iniesta, Modric, Pogba; Messi, Neymar, Cristiano
FIFA Fair Play Award: All football organisations supporting refugees
Speaking ahead of the ceremony about their nominations the footballers said to be there was a pleasure.
Ballon d'Or - meet the finalists
After winning the third FIFA Ballon d’Or of his career at the start of 2015, Cristiano Ronaldo continued to perform at his very best, racking up the goals to end the league season as its highest scorer with 48 in all, his biggest haul in Spain to date. He very nearly ended the UEFA Champions League season as its leading marksmen as well, tying with Lionel Messi on ten goals but serving up fewer assists. Cristiano nevertheless etched his name in the Real Madrid history books by becoming the club’s leading all-time scorer, eclipsing fellow Blanco legends Alfredo Di Stefano and Raul. The Portuguese also enjoyed a productive year on the international front, skippering A Seleçao das Quinas to direct qualification for UEFA EURO 2016, a relief for him and his team-mates following three consecutive appearances in EURO and World Cup play-offs.
"It's a special award. You work hard during the year to achieve great things, not just collective but individual things too. It's a beautiful award and we are nominated again, it's my eighth time that I'm here so it's a great credit to be here one more year. It's a unique trophy and it's great.
"My favourite words are dedication and hard work. You have to be serious in your job, to be here for the eighth time is not by coincidence, we all have talent but the talent without the work is nothing. I love to play football and to beat records too."
The Argentinian star recaptured the form and sharpness that has brought him four FIFA Ballons d’Or to date. Barcelona’s leading marksman in the league with 43 goals, he fired his side to yet another title and also top-scored in their victorious UEFA Champions League campaign, contributing ten goals and six assists. One of the highlights of another hugely productive season came in the Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao, with Messi slaloming his way past several opponents on a long, mazy run before conjuring up a clinical finish inside the box. The elusive forward also played a decisive part in Argentina’s run to the final of the Copa America Chile 2015, serving up three assists, the joint-highest tally in the competition along with Chile’s Jorge Valdivia.
"Just like Cristiano was saying, just to be here is a pleasure, it's a beautiful thing. I'm here to try and enjoy it. If I win it or the others win it it's all the same. Every year I try to do better than in my previous years. Last year thankfully I managed to beat almost all of them, we had an amazing year. I think we finished the year with a lot of good work. Our year was full of happiness and victories, to choose just one is hard."
Coming into his own in his second season with Barcelona, Neymar consolidated his position as one third of a lethal three-pronged attack. Following the shining example set by Lionel Messi, the Brazilian was his side’s second-highest scorer in their league, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League treble-winning campaign, contributing 39 goals in 51 matches. Troubled by injury in his debut year, Neymar was Barça’s third-most used player in the league last season. Now 23, he is keen to continue making history with his club, commenting after their UEFA Super Cup win that he has changed his game and his way of life. A devilish dribbler and deadly finisher, the gifted forward has for the last two years been the star act of a Brazil side that is now looking to rebuild after its FIFA World Cup™ woes on home soil in 2014.
"I'm very happy to be a part of this and be alongside these two great players that I admire. I hope to be back, I hope that my team goes on winning and that I may be back another time. I'm happy with the results that I have, the goals, I have to thank my team-mates for that, Lionel and the others. I think that we all set our own goals, we have our own history. Those two are still making history and it is on everybody's merit to be here and we all take credit for who we are."
Belfast Telegraph Digital