April 21, 2024

Messi wins record seventh Ballon d'Or

Messi wins record seventh Ballon d'Or
Lionel Messi wins the 2021 Ballon d'Or

For some, there is a sense of fatigue at seeing him claim the Ballon d'Or for a seventh time. But sustained excellence can hardly be held against him. The Messi of a decade ago may well have been superior to the Messi of today. In 2021, there has been no man better

Lionel Messi has won the men's Ballon d'Or for a record seventh time.

Messi, who left Barcelona as a free agent to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, was presented with the award for best men's footballer in the world on Monday night in Paris after another record-breaking 12 months for club and country.

He saw off competition from Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho.

"I'm really proud to win the France Football Ballon d'Or once again," said Messi. "It's incredible to win it for the seventh time. I would like to thank my family, my friends and all the people who follow me and always support me, because without them I couldn't have done it".

Messi, who wore a sparkly dinner jacket at the ceremony in Paris, collected the honour for a record sixth time in 2019 - one ahead of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo - before the awards were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, the 34-year-old ended his long wait for a major international trophy by winning the Copa America with Argentina as they beat hosts Brazil in the final.

Messi shared the Player of the Tournament prize with club-mate Neymar and took home the Golden Boot after registering four goals and five assists.

Three months prior, Messi scored twice in the Copa del Rey final to win his 34th - and final - trophy with Barcelona as they beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 and finished the La Liga season as top scorer with 30 goals.

The PSG forward was the previous winner of the award in 2019 as last year's edition was cancelled because of Covid. Messi also won the Ballon d'Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

This was the year that Lionel Messi finally won a major international trophy for Argentina. Yes, he had an Olympic gold medal already. But it was his inability to inspire the senior side to go all the way at a tournament that was so frequently held against him.

Messi was brilliant in Brazil. He was the Copa America top scorer with four goals but also registered the most assists - five of them. Against Ecuador in the quarter-final, he cleverly set up each of the first two goals before scoring the third himself.

That free-kick was one of two scored by Messi at the Copa - more than were scored by everyone at Euro 2020 combined. They were among his 15 goals scored from outside the penalty box in 2021. As his pace deserts him, other qualities have come to the fore.

His form for Barcelona during the first half of the year should not be forgotten. He scored 28 goals in 29 games, including two in a man-of-the-match performance to win the Copa del Rey in April. The team was not functioning at its best, but he remained remarkable.

Poland international Lewandowski, 33, who was widely expected to win last year, finished second after scoring 38 goals in 30 league games for Bayern in 2021.

It is natural to feel sympathy for Lewandowski, a victim of that curious decision not to present an award in 2020. But the biggest reason to feel sorry for those men chasing individual prizes is they have the misfortune to be doing so in the era of Messi.

For some, there is a sense of fatigue at seeing him claim the Ballon d'Or for a seventh time. But sustained excellence can hardly be held against him. The Messi of a decade ago may well have been superior to the Messi of today. In 2021, there has been no man better

Meanwhile, Jorginho finished third after a standout year in which he helped Italy to glory at the delayed Euro 2020 after lifting the Champions League trophy with Chelsea in May.