Lionel Messi, his wife Antonella Roccuzzo and their sons attend the Ballon D’Or. Photo / Getty Images
Lionel Messi has won a record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or award — but his family members were the real winners.
The Argentine footballer was recognised as the greatest footballer on the planet on Tuesday morning in a glamorous, black-tie affair in Paris.
Before even walking into the event, Messi had won in the eyes of the internet when the 34-year-old walked past the throng of cameras with wife Antonella Roccuzzo and their three sons.
A family photo showing Messi dressed in identical outfits to his three children pulled at the internet’s heart strings.
Unfortunately, it revealed all too much.
Fans around the world knew instantly Messi had won the award, judging by the family’s extravagant entrance.
Voting for the award is one of the closest-kept secrets in sport before the results are announced, but the secret was out before Messi had even sat down.
It is rare that Roccuzzo, a 33-year-old Argentine model, is not the centre of attention when the family makes public appearances.
Roccuzzo and Messi were married in 2017 after going public with their relationship in 2008, although they are thought to have been together for some time before that.
It was their adorable children Ciro, Mateo and Thiago, that stole the show on Tuesday.
The internet could not get enough of it.
Ciro, Mateo and Thiago also produced an adorable moment during the ceremony when their father was again recognised as the world’s best footballer.
Their reactions to the announcement were too much.
The only time Messi broke a smile during his acceptance speech was the moment the cameras showed his children on the big screen.
“It is incredible to be here again,” Messi said after accepting the award.
“Two years ago I thought that it was my last year and now I am here again. I am very happy, very excited and wanting to fight for new challenges.
“I do not know how long I have left but I hope it will be a long time. I want to thank my teammates from Barcelona and PSG, and especially the Argentina team. I won this award and I had the feeling that I was missing something and this year I was able to achieve it.
“A large part of this trophy is because of what we did in the Copa America, so thanks to my teammates, this is also yours. My wife, my children, my father, my mother are here.
“It is a huge honour to fight with Robert [Lewandowski]. Last year you were the winner and I think France Football should give it to you.”
Messi won the last edition of the Ballon d’Or in 2019 before last year’s awards were cancelled due to the pandemic. He also won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and in 2015.
The 34-year-old scored 38 goals in 48 games last season for Barcelona and won the Copa del Rey before captaining Argentina to Copa America glory in July.
That was the first major international title of his glittering career, which had been spent entirely with Barcelona before his tearful departure from the Camp Nou in August and subsequent move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi has played just 11 games for PSG so far, scoring four goals, but he was rewarded as much as anything for his continued brilliance down the years.
He has now won the Ballon d’Or twice more than his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo — between them they have won 12 of the last 13 editions with the exception coming in 2018 when Luka Modric claimed the prize.
Prolific Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski finished second and Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third in the voting by a jury of journalists from around the world.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, came in sixth.