Lionel Messi has admitted he was 'hurt' when Cristiano Ronaldo equalled his collection of five Ballon d'Ors having moved ahead of his great rival once again.
The Barcelona and Argentina star won the prestigious best player accolade for a sixth time - and for the first time since 2015 - at a glittering ceremony in Paris on Monday night.
It broke a spell of recent dominance by Portugal and Juventus forward Ronaldo, who had won four of the five editions between 2013 and 2017 before Luka Modric broke the duopoly last year.
Messi was rewarded for a fine 2019 and admitted afterwards that he was motivated by a desire to stay ahead of Ronaldo in their tallies of individual honours.
'On the one hand, I like being on five and being the only one,' Messi told Marca. 'When Cristiano matched me, I admit that it hurt a little, I was no longer alone at the top.
'But at that time Cristiano had merit for winning the Ballon d'Or and I did not. I could do much more.
'Team titles are the most important, although individuals have great value. As far as the Ballon d'Or is concerned, everyone lives in their own way.
'Of course, at the highest level in sport, you always want to win.
'I understand why Cristiano did not win this year. Neither of us met the aim of winning the Champions League and that is the competition that gives more opportunities to take the Ballon d'Or.
'When Cristiano Ronaldo was winning the trophies it was because he had very good seasons and won the Champions League, being decisive.'
When asked who was the greatest between himself and Ronaldo, Messi was diplomatic: 'Honestly, I don't know who is the best player in history.'
Messi won La Liga for the 10th time with Barcelona in 2019 but they suffered heartbreak in the semi-finals of the Champions League when they lost 4-0 to Liverpool having led 3-0 from the first leg.
Ronaldo claimed the Serie A title in his first season with Juventus and also guided Portugal to the inaugural UEFA Nations League title.