MILAN • Lionel Messi won his sixth Fifa Men's Player of the Year award on Monday night, with Megan Rapinoe bagging the women's prize to cap a historic year for the United States' World Cup-winning icon.
Messi's victory in Milan was a surprise as he edged out Virgil van Dijk, who won the Uefa player's award last month after playing a starring role in Liverpool's Champions League triumph last term.
The Barcelona captain did, however, win the Spanish La Liga title along with his sixth European Golden Shoe accolade, having scored 36 league goals.
He later posted on his Instagram account, saying he was "very happy and very grateful" before dedicating it to his family, club, teammates and fans.
Argentina teammates Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero sent their congratulations via social media, as did former Barcelona players Xavi, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves.
Rival Cristiano Ronaldo was also shortlisted for the award - last year, Croatia captain Luka Modric became the only player to displace the pair since 2008 - but the Juventus forward did not attend the ceremony held at the famous La Scala opera house.
The five-time winner, who ended up third in the voting behind van Dijk and Messi, later posted a cryptic message on Instagram: "Patience and persistence are two characteristics that differentiate the professional from the amateur.
"Everything that is big today has started small. You can't do everything, but do everything you can to make your dreams come true. And keep in mind that after night always comes dawn."
HOW THEY VOTED FOR MEN'S BEST PLAYER
THE TOP THREE
LIONEL MESSI (ARGENTINA CAPTAIN)
2 CRISTIANO RONALDO
3 FRENKIE DE JONG
VIRGIL VAN DIJK (NETHERLANDS CAPTAIN)
2 MOHAMED SALAH
3 SADIO MANE
CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL CAPTAIN)
2 DE JONG
3 KYLIAN MBAPPE
COACH Van Dijk
MEDIA Van Dijk
FINAL WINNING MARGIN
Messi beat out van Dijk (38) and Ronaldo (36) with 46 ranking points comprising votes from international team coaches, captains, media and fans.
The trio are now in the running for the coveted Ballon d'Or prize, which will be announced on Dec 2.
While some consider it to be a shoo-in as the past three years have seen the Player of the Year winner go on to claim the Ballon d'Or in the same year, the latter is exclusively decided by a jury of journalists around the world.
That was where Messi fell short on Monday, with van Dijk picking up 462 votes, 58 more than the Argentina skipper.
The Netherlands captain, who is hoping to pip his rivals in December and become the first defender in 13 years since Italy's Fabio Cannavaro to do so, also insisted he was not disappointed, saying that "the people who vote made a decision and you have to accept it".
"That's just the case and as players, you can't compare me and Messi because it's totally different," van Dijk said.
Liverpool, though, still nabbed a double on the night, with Jurgen Klopp winning the men's Coach of the Year award, while the goalkeeper equivalent went to Alisson.
"It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here," said Klopp, who joined the Reds in 2015. "I have to say, 'Thank you to my outstanding club Liverpool'.
"As a coach, you can only be as good as your team. I'm really proud of being coach of such an incredible bunch of players."
Rapinoe was rewarded with her maiden award for a tournament-leading six-goal haul as the Americans claimed a record-extending fourth women's World Cup title in July in France, as was Jill Ellis, who won the women's coach award.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS