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Messi wins 8th Ballon d’Or in what will be his last as Haaland and Bellingham take home awards

Lionel Messi thinks his remarkable run of Ballon d’Or success is over after claiming the trophy for the eighth time in Paris last night.

The 36-year-old won the most prestigious individual award in football once again after another glittering year that saw him lift the World Cup for Argentina in Qatar.

Inter Miami forward Messi accepts he is coming towards the end of his career and, now plying his trade in MLS and without another World Cup in which to show his skills on a global stage until 2026, knows it is time to pass the baton on to the next generation of talent.

He said: “Being world champion was fantastic. 

“But the truth is I’ve never really got used to receiving awards and being on the stage like this.

“Slowly, I have got used to it a bit more since winning it for the first time in 2009. 

“I think today is the last time I will win it, so it feels calmer, and I will enjoy it in a different way.”

The night saw youngsters Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland pick up awards for best under-21 player and top goalscorer, respectively. Haaland also was runner-up for the biggest prize of them all.

Could we be seeing the future Ballon d’Or winners here? Messi continued to hint at not knowing how much longer he will be playing the beautiful game. He also said:

“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had.

“Everything that I’ve achieved. The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies. 

“To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing.

“I’m proud of the career I’ve had. I’ve enjoyed football all my life, and soon I’ll enjoy it from the other side.

“I don’t know for how much longer I’ll play, but I plan to enjoy it.

“I can’t put a number on it as things can change very quickly from day to day in football. But I know that day is getting closer and closer.”

Meanwhile, this was also the first award without the inclusion of Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time since 2003.

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