On Monday night in Paris, the Ballon d’Or scripts unfolded as per expectations, with Lionel Messi adding his record-extending 8th title to his name, while Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe will have to wait longer to receive theirs.
Messi was awarded for the impeccable role he played as a player and a leader in Argentina’s World Cup triumph. Messi was an unerring cheat code for La Albiceleste, always rising up to the expectations, taking things into his own hands, and inspiring his team to a memorable victory.
“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved. The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies. To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing,” said Messi after receiving the prestigious trophy.
There was a sense of appropriateness to see Messi lifting this award for one last time. He didn’t win it on his league performance with PSG, or European performance. But in the World Cup years, everything else takes a backseat. Erling Haaland had the most prolific season at the club’s level, where he broke all goal-scoring records in the Premier League and completed the historic treble with Manchester City. But his team didn’t even qualify for the tournament, and his record in the knockout stage of the Champions League was underwhelming. Messi, meanwhile, had seven goals and three assists in the World Cup.
No one has dominated this award like Messi. He won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, and retained the award on the next three occasions, becoming the first player ever to win it four times in a row. His next three titles came in 2015, 2019, and 2021. When Messi won his Ballon d’Or in 2021, it was presumed this would be his last. But Messi overcame a treacherous start at his new club in France, and then put up a stellar show in the FIFA World Cup.
It’s safe to predict this is going to be his last title. The World Cup is three years away, and the Argentine no longer plies his trade in the elite European leagues. It’s now time for the young guns of the football world to compete for the Ballon d’Or. Of course, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbaape are going to be the long-time contenders for this. Jude Bellingham’s name can’t be kept out after the way he has started his life at Real Madrid. Bellingham came 18th in the Ballon d’Or ranking but was awarded the Kopa trophy for the best under-21 male player.
Ballon d’Or top 10
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina and PSG/Inter Miami)
2. Erling Haaland (Norway and Manchester City)
3. Kylian Mbappe (France and PSG)
4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium and Manchester City)
5. Rodri (Spain and Manchester City)
6. Vinicius Jr (Brazil and Real Madrid)
7. Julian Alvarez (Argentina and Manchester City)
8. Victor Osimhen (Nigeria and Napoli)
9. Bernardo Silva (Portugal and Manchester City)
10. Luka Modric (Croatia and Real Madrid)