Lionel Messi has added another award to his glittering collection after being handed the ‘Creu de Sant Jordi’ for 2019.
The Argentina forward has followed in the footsteps of Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff by picking up the award which recognises individuals and institutions who have served Catalonia and the protection of the region’s identity.
The award, which was created in 1981, is the second-highest civil distinction handed out by the Catalan regional government and is annually awarded to multiple recipients.
Messi has scooped the prize after another sterling campaign with Barcelona which has seen him fire Ernersto Valverde’s side to the cusp of a domestic double.
The 31-year-old, who joined Barcelona at the tender age of 13 and flew through the ranks to become one of their greatest ever players, is being touted as a shoo-in to win the Ballon d’Or despite his failure to win the Champions League this season.
Messi had made it his prime goal to reign supreme in Europe with Barcelona once again but an astonishing collapse at Anfield earlier this month saw them eliminated at the semi-final stage.
The forward has still managed to scored 48 goals in as many games in all competitions this season, taking his tally to 598 for Barcelona – the most of any player in the club’s history.
Messi has also won more titles than any other Barcelona player with 34 to his name and holds the second-highest record for number of appearances for the club – only Xavi has more.
He is however not the first Barcelona player to be anointed with the Creu de Sant Jordi.
The late Dutch great Cruyff, who starred for Barcelona as both a player, from 1973-78, and coach, between 1988-96, was among the individual recipients in 2006.
Cruyff enjoyed an incredibly successful spell in Catalan in his playing days, winning a La Liga title and Copa del Rey.
He would also guide them to their first-ever European Cup as well as four straight league triumphs from 1990-94 during his time as the club’s manager.
Three years after winning the Creu de Sant Jordi, Cruyff was named head coach of the Catalonia football team, and guided them until 2013.
Barcelona also received the highly prestigious award as an institution in 1992.
Messi and co will be presented with the La Liga title when they close out the league campaign against Eibar on Sunday before competing for the chance to cap off a memorable season in the Copa del Rey final against Valencia next week.