Lionel Messi Did Not Deserve the 2023 Ballon d’Or
Written by: Mark Aguilar 🇸🇻
Image via GOAL
Lionel Messi made history on Oct. 30th, 2023, by winning his 8th Ballon d’Or. He is now far and away the player with the most Ballon d’Or wins, an annual football award for the best player over the previous year. Cristiano Ronaldo holds the second place with 5 Ballon d’Or wins. However, with Messi’s latest win coming off the back of winning the World Cup with Argentina, there’s not much else to show for his win. By ending last season with only winning the Ligue 1 title with PSG, which isn’t much of an accomplishment in the French League, and then joining MLS side Inter Miami, did Messi really deserve his Ballon d’Or win?
The answer is nNo. Considering the fact that the Ballon d’Or cycle counts for the entire season, which started on August 1st 2021 and ended on July 31st 2023, Messi did not have a justifiable enough season to have won the Ballon d’Or. Messi won his Ballon d’Or simply for his World Cup win and his performances in Qatar that spanned seven games in one month.
Sure, he was arguably the best player at the tournament, which is why there’s an award for that achievement. But when you're giving him an award for being the best player in the world for a whole season, that’s when it gets very questionable.
It seems as if voters valued the World Cup win so much that they were willing to look the other way when it came to the rest of his relatively average season and ignore other deserving players for the award.
Image via Manchester City website
One such player who had a better case of winning the award was Erling Haaland. The Norwegian striker was unstoppable for Manchester City last season, scoring 56 goals and winning a historic treble for the club (The Premier League, FA Cup, & Champions League). He also managed to accomplish this in his first season at the club, seamlessly adapting to English soccer and Pep Guardiola’s system. At 23 years old, he’ll still have more chances at the Ballon d’Or, but it seems unjust that he lost out this year after winning everything he possibly could while being the most important player in the team.
Other cases could even be made for players such as Kylian Mbappé, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Rodri. De Bruyne and Rodri both play at Manchester City with Haaland and share the same achievements, but all three were pivotal for their treble win and deserve their individual acknowledgments. In the case of Mbappé, however, it could be argued that he is the best individual soccer player in the world. In terms of talent and raw ability, disregarding the amount of goals and trophies he’s won, he might be the best in the world. But even his incredible World Cup campaign got overshadowed by Messi despite scoring the most goals in the tournament and even scoring a hat trick in the final.
Lionel Messi is considered by many, including myself, as the greatest soccer player of all time. Messi is also a pretty likable guy who the whole world was rooting for during the World Cup, and there was no shortage of people congratulating him when Argentina eventually went on to win it.
He wasn’t a bit-part player during this run either, he was the guy who dragged that above-average squad to the title. But over the span of 12 months, he hasn’t been that guy anymore. After the World Cup, he returned to PSG and wasn’t able to take them to a deep run in the Champions League, the trophy they have yet to win in their history.
Now, in the twilight of his career playing in the MLS with Inter Miami, he’s more than likely won his final Ballon d’Or. He’ll be leaving a long-lasting legacy with the award that once used to be competitive, but became dominated by two players for the past 15 years. Although Messi did not deserve his last win, the competitiveness of the Ballon d’Or could be returning as new players emerge as the best in the world.