The Ballon d'Or award, created by writer Gabriel Hanot of France Football magazine, is usually regarded as the most prestigious trophy in soccer. The "Golden Ball" trophy was presented to the finest European player each year between 1956 and 1995 before regulations were changed to allow any soccer player based in Europe to compete.

In 2007, the award was expanded to include players from all across the world, before being amalgamated with the rival Fifa Player of the Year in 2010. In 2016, the two trophies split again, with FIFA establishing their own "The Best" award, but the Ballon d'Or, which is voted on by journalists all around the globe, is still largely regarded as the pinnacle.

Two Spanish teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid top the list for most champions with twelve and eleven trophies, respectively. Lionel Messi holds the record for most wins with his seventh prize coming in 2021, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo with five (one with Manchester United and four with Real Madrid).

 

Lionel Messi: List of Ballon d'Or awards by years and age

Lionel Messi won his first Ballon d'Or at the age of 22 in 2009. After three successful seasons, the Argentine became the first player to win the Ballon d'Or four times in a row, making him the first player to do so. He established himself as Barcelona's all-time leading scorer during the 2011/12 season, setting La Liga and European records for most goals scored in a single season.

Messi finished second for the Ballon d'Or the following two seasons behind Cristiano Ronaldo (his perceived career rival), before resuming his best form in the 2014/15 season, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga and leading Barcelona to a historic second treble.

As a result, he was awarded his fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015. In 2018, Messi was named Barcelona captain, and he won a record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or the following year. Two years later, he received the prize for the seventh time.

Ballon d'Or awards Year Messi's age at the time
1.  2009 22
2. 2010 23
3. 2011 24
4. 2012 25
5. 2015 28
6. 2019 32
7. 2021 34