Lionel Messi has said he was not happy when Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or for the fifth time in 2017 and tied the Argentinian's all-time record.
Messi won the prestigious award for a sixth time on Monday at a ceremony in Paris to set yet another new benchmark:
The superlative Argentina international had been stuck on a five awards for a while, though.
After winning his fifth in 2015, he was two clear of Ronaldo, Marco van Basten, Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini at the top of the all-time standings.
But then the Portuguese forward won back-to-back Ballons d'Or in 2016 and 2017 to join Messi, before Luka Modric broke the duo's decade-long duopoly of the award last year:
After edging his nose in front of Ronaldo again with his sixth Ballon d'Or, Messi said there was little he could do at the time about the former Real Madrid and Manchester United man making up the ground, per France Football (h/t Marca):
"When Cristiano Ronaldo pulled level with me, I'll admit that it hurt a little as I was no longer alone at the top. But, at that moment he deserved the Ballon d'Or and I couldn't do much more about it.
"I understand why I didn't win, as we hadn't won the UEFA Champions League and winning that competition gives you a better chance of winning the Ballon d'Or.
"When Cristiano Ronaldo was winning all the [individual] trophies it was because he'd had really good seasons and had been winning the Champions League, being decisive as his team did so."
Messi's main rival for the 2019 Ballon d'Or was Virgil van Dijk, who played a key role in Liverpool coming second in the Premier League as well as their Champions League victory in 2018-19.
Though there were plenty who felt the Dutchman deserved the gong, it was difficult for most to begrudge the 32-year-old the honour given the sheer weight of his contributions in 2019:
Robin Bairner @RBairner
I'm torn with Messi winning the Ballon d'Or. Half of me is pleased that he has 6 and will likely go down as the greatest player of the era. Half of me feels that Van Dijk would've been a more deserving winner on the basis of his performances of the last year. https://t.co/teW7cPdl4Y
Messi scored 36 goals and provided 13 assists in 34 appearances to propel Barca to the La Liga title in 2018-19, and he has netted nine in nine appearances so far this term.
On receiving his latest award, Messi acknowledged that now he is into his 30s, the "moment of withdrawal is approaching."
The same is true for Ronaldo, who is 34.
It is possible that, after winning the Ballon d'Or in 11 of the last 12 years, neither may ever win it again.
If that does prove to be the case, Messi will forever have one over on his rival in the record books.