Messi claims record 5th Ballon d'Or crown
The Argentine forward claimed the accolade following a stellar 2014/15 season in which he scored 58 goals in all competitions and won La Liga, the Champions League and Copa del Rey with Barcelona.
He also added UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winners' medals later in the calendar year.
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was chasing his fourth Ballon d'Or, after scoring 57 goals in 2015, including a record 16 Champions League goals.
The Real Madrid striker beat Messi's Barcelona teammate Neymar into third place. The Brazilian hit 45 goals in 62 games and currently tops this season's La Liga charts alongside Luis Suarez with 15 goals.
After winning the award, Messi, who gained 41.33% of the vote, said: "It's a very special moment for me to be back here on this stage, winning again another Ballon d'Or after seeing Cristiano win it [for the last two years]."
"It's incredible that it's my fifth - much more than anything I would have dreamed of as a kid."
Luis Enrique was crowned world coach of the year after leading Barcelona to five of the six trophies they contested in 2015.
Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola was second, with Chile's Copa America-winning coach Jorge Sampaoli in third place.
Dani Alves and Andres Iniesta joined Barca teammates Messi and Neymar in the Fifa/Fifpro world team of the year, with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric ensuring Real Madrid also had four representatives following Ronaldo's inclusion.
Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba completed the line-up.
England's Premier League was the only one of Europe's top five leagues not to be represented.
The USA's Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final against Japan, won the women's world player of the year award, while US head coach Jill Ellis claimed the women's football world coach of the year.
Wendell Lira of Brazil's Atletico Goianiense won the Puskas goal of the year award for a superb overhead kick during their game against Goianesia.
This year's fair play prize, presented by ex-Leeds and South Africa captain Lucas Radebe, was awarded to all football clubs and organizations supporting refugees.
The Ballon d'Or awards are chosen by national team coaches, captains and journalists who vote for their top three in each category.
They pick their first, second and third choice for each award, with five, three and one points awarded to each position.
The winner is the person with the most points, but in the event of a tie the award goes to the player or coach with the most first places.