Lionel Messi is set to be honored with an eighth Ballon d’Or later this month, with the Inter Miami star’s win being leaked alongside the female winner’s award, ending the long-standing debate with rival Cristiano Ronaldo. The 36-year-old finally got his hands on the World Cup last December, which effectively rubber-stamped the Ballon d’Or win regardless of where his future would be following the conclusion of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi joined Inter Miami in the summer and added 12 goals, five assists, and a Leagues Cup on top of that of what he achieved with Argentina and PSG. According to Catalan newspaper Sport, Messi will now become the first active MLS player to win the Ballon d’Or, reclaiming the award from Karim Benzema.
Messi faced fierce competition from Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and ex-PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe. Haaland won the Treble with City last season and broke the goal-scoring record in the Premier League – 52 goals in 53 games. Mbappe, meanwhile, scored a hat-trick in France’s World Cup Final loss to Argentina, becoming the second male player ever to do so.
The Ballon d’Or, however, isn’t a top priority of Messi’s, especially after clinching a World Cup. “I have said it many times, the Ballon d’Or is very important due to the recognition at the individual level, but I never gave it importance,” Messi said.
“The most important thing for me was always the awards at the group level. I was lucky to have achieved everything in my career and after the World Cup, I’m thinking about that award much less, my biggest award was that and I’m disguising my moment. If it arrives, good, and if not, nothing happens. I was lucky to achieve all my goals in my career and now I have new goals with this club.”
It’s unclear whether Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or will be upgraded to a Super Ballon d’Or, which has only ever been presented once in 1989 to Alfredo di Stefano. It is an award by France Football to the best men’s player of the past three decades.
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Both scenarios would be a bitter blow to Messi’s long-time rival, Cristiano Ronaldo. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is playing his football in Saudi Arabia and is far from contending for the individual honor.
Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati will be the women’s winner and will be presented with a trophy presented at the Chatelet Theater. Bonmati won the Women’s World Cup with Spain after beating England in August.
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