Lionel Messi became the first player to win seven Ballon d’Or awards on Tuesday night, while Alexia Putellas became the first woman to win an international award after helping Ecuador to a World Cup quarter-final.
Messi and the Argentina captain, Javier Mascherano, were among 23 nominees for the women’s award, with Becky Sauerbrunn, who has been with the US national team since 2003, the leading vote-getter with 185,176 of the 191,655 votes.
Alexia Putellas is the first female player to win an international title. Photograph: VCG/VCG via Getty Images
“It means a lot, especially to be with a group like this,” Putellas, a midfielder, said after her trophy ceremony at Argentina’s national team’s training facility in Madrid. “With the players we have in this national team, I think we are going to be able to compete in the World Cup [in France] a lot better than we have in previous World Cups and qualify for the Olympics.”
Putellas beat Japan’s Homare Sawa, Germany’s Celia Sasic and Germany’s Melanie Behringer in the women’s voting.
Marta was expected to be a serious contender for the award, but the Brazil forward sustained a knee injury shortly before the World Cup and played only four games before being ruled out for the year. Marta, the most influential player of the last decade and a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, didn’t play in the voting.
Messi received 538,144 votes in the men’s final round of voting. Cristiano Ronaldo received 509,191 votes and Lionel Messi won the race with 538,144 votes in the men’s final round of voting. Previous winners:
2016: Cristiano Ronaldo
2015: Leo Messi
2014: Lionel Messi
2013: Lionel Messi
2012: Lionel Messi
2011: Lionel Messi
2010: Lionel Messi
2009: Lionel Messi
2008: Lionel Messi
2007: Lionel Messi
2006: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best female footballer: Alexia Putellas
Brazil’s Marta and Argentina’s Marta were among 15 finalists for the women’s Ballon d’Or award.
Putellas, a midfielder, started all five matches during Ecuador’s quarter-final loss to the United States in 2015.
She started her professional career as a 17-year-old with Italian club Sassuolo, and was quick to move to France’s Paris St-Germain before returning to Ecuador. Putellas also played in Europe with Arsenal.
“I think that success as a footballer has been the privilege of my life,” Putellas said. “I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful career so far.”
Messi got back to full fitness after a shoulder injury and scored a goal and assisted on two others to lead Argentina to the Copa America title in June. His winning free-kick during a penalty shootout against Chile was the 54th of his career, passing Italian legend Marco van Basten for most goals in a single tournament.