Ballon d’Or

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La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Van Dijk: ‘Very proud’ to be in running for Ballon d’Or

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A centerback hasn’t won the Ballon d’Or – or FIFA’s Best Male Player award – since 2006, when Fabio Cannavarro earned the prize off the back of a tremendous summer leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

[READ: Leo Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or]

In the end, Virgil Van Dijk came this close to breaking the duopoly held by strikers and playmaking midfielders. The Liverpool centerback finished second in the voting, and he was able to sit right next to Lionel Messi before the Argentine star was announced as the award winner.

“You need to respect greatness. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better,” van Dijk told Liverpool’s website after the event in Paris on Monday. “I’m very proud of what I achieved last year, with Liverpool and Holland. Hopefully we can do it again this year. I never thought I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated. It says a lot about how my career has been, it has never been easy. I came late but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work very hard every step of the way.

“Where I am right now is something I’m very proud of. To be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder and hopefully be here next year again.”

Van Dijk had an outstanding season with Liverpool in 2018-2019, cementing himself as the pre-eminent centerback in the world and leading the Reds to a UEFA Champions League title. At the same time, van Dijk’s strong defensive work allowed Liverpool to come within one point of Manchester City for the Premier League title, nearly ending a three-decade drought for Liverpool.

Van Dijk hasn’t dropped any levels into this season. Thanks to his strong defensive play, Liverpool has a double-digit lead in the Premier League standings over Man City, and could run away with the title if the Reds continue to pick up points. Van Dijk finishing second shows how valuable he is even abroad, and where would Liverpool be without him? Certainly not leading the league right now.

The 28-year-old centerback has sort of blossomed late, but he’s used every move as a stepping stone to a moment like this. From making his debut at 20-years old with Gronigen in the Netherlands to a move to Celtic and then Southampton, van Dijk has improved at every stage to become one of the best players in the world.

How the world reacted to Messi’s 6th Ballon d’Or

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It wasn’t a massive shock, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo not in attendance, but Lionel Messi picked up his sixth Ballon d’Or award from France Football on Monday evening.

Even if not a surprise, it’s still incredibly impressive. It’s Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and at age 32, he’s looking as strong, quick, and incredible as ever. For a player on the wrong side of 30 to take his game back to a superstar level is incredible, and it had folks thinking nostalgic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a sample of some of the reaction to Messi’s win on social media:

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😍 Felicidades @leomessi 🌟

A post shared by Antoine Griezmann 🇫🇷 (@griezmannfhd) on

 

Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or

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Lionel Messi is back on top.

For the sixth time, the hosts at France Football’s end-of-year awards ceremonies read out Messi’s name as the winner of the Ballon d’Or. The 2019 award is Messi’s first since 2015. Since the the award was won by Cristiano Ronaldo twice and Luka Modric last year after guiding Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final.

So far this season, Messi has scored 14 goals to go with eight assists for Barcelona in all competitions. Last season however, Messi returned to his dominance, leading La Liga with 36 goals and scoring a total of 48 between the league and the UEFA Champions League. He also had 16 assists between both leagues.

Also honored on Monday evening was the winners of the Best Young Player and the Best Goalkeeper, a new award.

The goalkeeping award, named after the Soviet great Lev Yashin, went to Liverpool’s Alisson Becker. The Brazilian goalkeeper backstopped Liverpool in his first season in England to second place in the Premier League and the 2019 UEFA Champions League title. He’s recorded 21 clean sheets in 45 Premier League appearances so far.

Matthijs de Ligt, the former Ajax star who led his team to back to back Champions League semifinals, was named the Best Young Player by France Football. Now with Juventus, de Ligt is part of a superstar generation of young Dutch players who are looking to take their nation far at the 2020 Euros and beyond. De Ligt, at just 20-years old, still has many of his best years ahead of him.

The top ten in the final 2019 Ballon d’Or is as follows:

10. Riyad Mahrez, Man City

9. Bernardo Silva, Man City

8. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

7. Alisson Becker, Liverpool

6. Kylian Mbappe, PSG

5. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

4. Sadie Mane, Liverpool

3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

2. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Ballon d’Or 2019 results revealed

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The full results for the 2019 Ballon d’Or voting have been announced during the glitzy event in Paris on Monday, as the top player on the planet was crowned.

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Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or, setting a record for the most wins by a single player in history.

Messi, Virgil Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo finished in first, second and third place respectively for the coveted trophy, as Messi has overtaken Ronaldo who has won the Ballon d’Or five times and VVD was aiming to become the first defender since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 to win the award.

Remember: leading journalists along with national team coaches and captains vote for the winners of this award.

Below is the list of players from the 30-man shortlist and where they finished.

28. Joao Felix
28. Marquinhos
28. Donny van de Beek
26. Karim Benzema
26. Georginio Wijnaldum
24. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
24. Kalidou Koulibaly
23. Hugo Lloris
22. Heung-Min Son
20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
20. Dusan Tadic
19. Trent Alexander-Arnold
18. Antoine Griezmann
17. Roberto Firmino
16. Sergio Aguero
15. Matthijs de Ligt
14. Kevin De Bruyne
13. Eden Hazard
12. Raheem Sterling
11. Frenkie de Jong

The top 10…

10. Riyad Mahrez

9. Bernardo Silva

8. Robert Lewandowski

7. Alisson

6. Kylian Mbappe

5. Mohamed Salah

4. Sadio Mane

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

2. Virgil van Dijk

1. Lionel Messi