On Friday, Lionel Messi received the ‘Champions of Champions’ award from the French journal L’Equipe, given to the greatest athlete of the year. Messi’s efforts with Argentina helped the team win the World Cup.
The award, which has been given out annually since 1946 and is now open to athletes from outside of France, is chosen by the magazine’s editorial staff, although until recently the criteria for winning were so high that team sports players had a much harder time getting recognized. However, this year’s top two were both football players.
Messi scored 808 points to win the title, well surpassing his Paris Saint-Germain colleague, who finished in second place with 285. Also in the top five were tennis star Rafael Nadal (fresh off a year in which he won two Grand Slam titles) and cyclist Remco Evenepoel, as well as Formula One driver and defending champion Max Verstappen (who has won the title twice).
Despite their reputation for being tough on footballers, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele were not given a rating by L’Equipe after the World Cup final because of their performance. Lionel Messi, who has won the award twice, was the latest football player to do so in 2011 after Barcelona won the treble.
Messi became the fifth footballer to win the award; the others were Diego Maradona (1986), Paolo Rossi (1982), Romario (1994), and Zinedine Zidane (1998), all from his native Argentina. It’s important to note that they all had one thing in common: they were the ones to lead their country to World Cup victory that year.
The previous winner was tennis star Novak Djokovic, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have won four times apiece, and Serena Williams has won the women’s award three times. Other frequent recipients include track and field athletes and Formula One driver; Usain Bolt holds the record with five awards, followed by Michael Schumacher with three and Simone Biles with three.