MADRID: Lionel Messi won a record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or on Monday after another sublime year for the Argentinian, whose familiar brilliance remained undimmed even through difficult times for club and country.

Despite Barcelona's collapse at the end of last season and Argentina losing to Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America, Messi's genius was ever-present in 2019, for which he now stands alone in the history of the game's most prestigious individual prize.

Four years after his last Ballon d'Or, Messi pulled clear of the five next to the name of Cristiano Ronaldo, and now owns twice as many as Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco van Basten.

In 54 appearances this year, Messi has managed an astonishing 46 goals and 17 assists while for Barca alone he hit 41 goals and 15 assists in 44 matches, which included seven doubles and three hat-tricks.

"It's like he is extra-terrestrial," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde in March. "Every time he gets the ball something extraordinary seems to happen."

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