On 1 December 2009, Lionel Messi capped an amazing year by winning the Ballon d'Or as the world's best footballer. And he did by a record margin of votes.
A panel of sports journalists from around the world voted on the award, which had previously been limited to players from European clubs, but expanded in 2007 to include footballers from anywhere in the world.
The award came on the heels of Messi's incredible run with Barcelona in 2008-09 in which the Catalan club won a staggering total of six trophies--La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de España, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. Messi was one of four players from that team to finish in the voters' top five--the others were Xavi (3rd), Andrés Iniesta (4th), and Samuel Eto'o (5th), who had since moved to Inter in the summer of 2009.
The second-place finisher was Cristiano Ronaldo, who had won the award over Messi in 2008. In 2009, Messi finished with 473 out of a possible 480 first-place votes, more than doubling Ronaldo's total that year of 233 votes and setting a record separation of 240 votes between first and second place. The previous record was 167, set in 2007 when voting expanded to accommodate the award's new global scope. Cristiano Ronaldo had finished second that year to future Real Madrid teammate Kaká.
In 2010, the Ballon d'Or merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year Award to create the FIFA Ballon d'Or. Messi won that award in 2010, 2011, and 2012, with Ronaldo winning it in 2013 and 2014.