U.S. national team captain Megan Rapinoe concluded her sweep of major soccer awards Monday when she was named winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or in a ceremony in Paris. Argentina’s Lionel Messi won the men’s Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time after scoring 54 goals for club and country in 2018-19, helping Barcelona win the La Liga championship.
Rapinoe, 34, led the U.S. to its second consecutive Women’s World Cup title last summer in France, claiming the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and the Golden Boot as the leading scorer. Then in September she won the FIFA world-player-of-the-year prize.
England’s Lucy Bronze finished second in the voting by journalists and national team captains and coaches, beating out Rapinoe’s U.S. teammate Alex Morgan, who was third.
Rapinoe did not attend the awards gala but thanked the voters in a videotaped message.
“It’s absolutely incredible. Congrats to the other nominees,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field. It’s been an incredible year. I want to thank my teammates and the U.S. federation.”
Rapinoe, who has described herself as “walking protest,” made headlines this year for more than just her soccer, using her platform to speak out for LGBTQ rights and equal pay, leading the national team’s gender-discrimination lawsuit against the same federation she thanked Monday.
Her post-goal pose in France, in which she raced to the sideline and stood erect, her arms stretched to the skies, became the iconic image of a World Cup in which she had the winning score in three of her team’s four knockout-round wins, including the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final.
Rapinoe also crossed social media swords with President Trump during the tournament after a 6-month-old videotape surfaced in which she promised not to visit the White House if the U.S. team were invited, a pledge Morgan and others also made.
Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands and Liverpool was second in the men’s voting, one of four Liverpool players in the top seven. Sadio Mane finished fourth and Alisson was seventh. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Juventus, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, was third.
“Today is my sixth Ballon d’Or. It’s a completely different moment, lived with my family and my children,” Messi said.
“As my wife said, you must never stop dreaming but always work to improve and continue to enjoy. I am very lucky, I am blessed.”
The Ballon d’Or, considered soccer’s top individual award, has been presented by France Football every year since 1956, with England’s Stanley Matthews the first winner. A women’s category was added last year when the award went to Norway’s Ada Hegerberg.