The Croatian handed the individual award to the Argentine superstar on Monday and then expressed his respect for the Blaugrana forward
Lionel Messi received the Ballon d’Or trophy from 2018 winner Luka Modric on Monday, with the Real Madrid midfielder then congratulating Barcelona’s talismanic forward on social media.
Modric ended Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 10-year duopoly over the prestigious prize last year having helped Croatia reach the World Cup final after winning a third successive Champions League with Real Madrid.
It was Messi’s turn to win the award again this year , though, as he claimed a record sixth Ballon d’Or having scored 41 goals in 44 club appearances so far across the calendar year.
Messi was La Liga’s top scorer in 2018-19 as Barcelona beat Real Madrid to the title, though that did not stop Modric praising a star on the other side of the Clasico divide.
“Sports and football are not just about winning, they’re also about respect for your team-mates and rivals,” he wrote on his social media accounts alongside a picture of him handing Messi the award.
Messi’s stellar displays for Barcelona allowed him to hold off the challenge of Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk, who helped Liverpool win the 2019 Champions League.
Van Dijk was bidding to become the first defender to win the award since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, but he ended up finishing second in the final voting.
Messi’s latest triumph means that the Ballon d’Or has now been won by a player from La Liga in each of the last 11 years, with four of Ronaldo’s five victories coming while he was at Madrid.
At 32 years old, Messi still has plenty of time to add to his individual trophy haul, having recently reached 700 appearances for Barcelona across all competitions.
The Argentina international has scored a staggering 614 goals for the club, while winning 34 trophies, including La Liga 10 times and four European Cups.
Messi will be back in action with Barca on Saturday, with Mallorca set to arrive at Camp Nou as Ernesto Valverde’s side look to put some distance between themselves and Madrid at the Liga summit.
Modric, meanwhile, will line up for the Blancos when they play host to Espanyol at Santiago Bernabeu on the same day.
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