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Lionel Messi took home world football’s most coveted prize (again), but the Ballon d’Or ceremony was also notable for who DIDN’T attend.

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Let’s face it, the announcement from France Football for the annual Ballon d’Or winners is often one of the worst-kept secrets of the awards world and this year was no exception. Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or as the world’s best male player.

Last year’s winner, Luka Modric, was brought on stage by emcee Didier Drogba to give his Barcelona rival the award — a nice gesture given that Messi wasn’t in attendance to see the Croatian pick up the award in 2018.

— #BallondOr (@francefootball) December 2, 2019

United States star Megan Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or and got a nice message from former White House first lady Michelle Obama.

— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) December 2, 2019

Poorly kept secrets aside, the 2019 edition of the gala event in Paris was once again notable for who WASN’T there.

Women’s winner Rapinoe, who helped the U.S. to a second consecutive World Cup win this summer in France, was not on hand, nor were global superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, who was nominated and finished third behind Messi and Virgil van Dijk, or Neymar, who was not nominated at all.

“I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight. It’s absolutely incredible, congrats to the other nominees. I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field, it’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded message. “I want to thank my teammates and the U.S. federation.”

Last year, none of Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar showed up to see Modric win the big prize. ESPN FC scoured social media in light of their absences and cobbled together a semblance of what they might have been doing.

Along with good sport Modric, Messi’s Barcelona teammate Antoine Griezmann turned up to see the Argentine accept his prize, further putting to bed rumours of a rift between the two at the Camp Nou.

👔 Els protagonistes ja estan aquí 💫#BallondOr pic.twitter.com/RE3Z0IFmJE

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_cat) December 2, 2019

In other awards, Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, a key player in Ajax Amsterdam’s thrilling run to the Champions League semifinals and now at Juventus, won the Kopa trophy for the best under-21 male player in the world following a vote of international journalists. He was presented with the award by last year’s winner, Kylian Mbappe.

Alisson Becker, one of four Liverpool players in the top seven for the men’s Ballon d’Or, was awarded the new Yashin trophy for the best male goalkeeper of the year.

As for Ronaldo, his excuse is that he was in Milan picking up the Serie A player of the year award, but we have a sneaking suspicion he just couldn’t bear to watch in person as Messi officially edged him 6-5 for the most Ballon d’Ors between the two.

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