Lionel Messi beat Virgil van Dijk to the 2019 Ballon d’Or by a slender seven-point margin, the award’s organisers have confirmed.
France Football declared Messi’s record sixth victory to be among the narrowest in the 63-year history of the prestigious prize.
The Barcelona captain finished top of the count with 686 points, just ahead of Liverpool defender Van Dijk’s 679.
Third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not attend Monday’s ceremony, tallied 476 points, 210 fewer than long-time rival Messi.
Sadio Mane, fourth on 347 points, was the only other player to exceed the 200-mark.
“The history of the award has had tighter scores, but the number of voting journalists – 176 this year – was [in the past] much smaller,” read a post on France Football’s website.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 2, 2019
Runner-up Van Dijk praised Messi’s “unnatural” ability and said he had complete respect for the 32-year-old.
When asked about five-time winner Ronaldo’s absence, he joked: “Was he a candidate?”
Ronaldo’s sister, singer Katia Aveiro, failed to see the funny side of the light-hearted comment, firing back at the Dutchman in a lengthy Instagram rant.
“Now, dear Virgil, where you are going, Cristiano Ronaldo has gone and has come a thousand times,” she wrote.
“You see, my dear Virgil, that Cristiano Ronaldo was a three-time champion in the country where you have been playing for years and you still haven’t got your hand on the trophy.
“Cristiano Ronaldo was even the best player and best scorer in the country where you play Virgil. By the way, he was even younger than you. Then, dear Virgil, Cristiano Ronaldo went to other places and became the greatest player in the history of a club… this club, with this Cristiano guy, even beat you in the Champions League final.
“Of these [Ballons d’Or], Ronaldo already has five, Virgil.”
2019 Ballon d’Or points
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 686
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – 679
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) – 476
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – 347
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 178
6. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) – 89
7. Alisson (Liverpool) – 67
8. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 44
9. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) – 41
10. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) – 33