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Messi’s Ballon d’Or win sparks controversy

Kroos, Casillas, Matthaeus slam decision, Ronaldo hits out at Ferre of organisers France Football

Lionel Messi won the men's Ballon d'Or award for a record-extending seventh time at a ceremony in Paris yesterday morning (Singapore time), but his triumph was not well received by some players and ex-players.

The Argentinian won the last edition of the Ballon d'Or in 2019 before last year's awards were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He also won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and in 2015.

The 34-year-old scored 38 goals in 47 games last season for Barcelona and won the Copa del Rey before captaining Argentina to Copa America glory in July.

After several near-misses, it was the first major international title of his senior career and he was named the tournament's best player and top scorer.

His brimming silverware cabinet is filled with titles won at Barcelona, before he departed for Paris Saint-Germain in August.

Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said on his podcast: "It's absolutely not deserved. There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano (Ronaldo), has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should've been others ahead of him."

The former Champions League and World Cup winner added that his top three were Real teammate Karim Benzema (fourth), Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (second) and Chelsea's Jorginho (third).

Fellow ex-World Cup and Champions League winner Iker Casillas added: "It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards.

"Messi is one of the best but you have to know who is the most outstanding player after the season. It's not that hard."

Lothar Matthaeus, who himself won the accolade after lifting the World Cup with Germany in 1990, was unequivocal about who the winner should have been.

He told Sky Germany: "With all due respect to Messi and the other great players named, none deserved it as much as Lewandowski.

"To be as remarkable as the Bayern striker and that practically week after week.

"And Ronaldo was not as consistent and extraordinary as Lewandowski. I don't understand why he didn't win."

Messi himself conceded that the Pole should have won the award last year, saying: "You deserve your Ballon d'Or. Last year everyone agreed that you were the winner.

"I think France Football should give you your Ballon d'Or. You have to have it in your house."

Lewandowski, 33, swept the Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2020. He was the top scorer and racked up the most assists in the Champions League that year.

In May, he broke Bayern and Germany legend Gerd Mueller's single-season Bundesliga scoring record after netting 41 league goals last season, before later winning the European Golden Shoe.

Meanwhile, five-time winner Ronaldo, who finished sixth this time around, hit out at Ballon d'Or organiser Pascal Ferre, saying the editor-in-chief of France Football "lied" about his rivalry with Messi.

Ferre told The New York Times last week that the Manchester United forward's sole ambition was to retire with more of the awards for the world's best player than Messi.

Ronaldo posted on Instagram: "Pascal Ferre lied, he used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication he works for...

"I always win for myself and for the clubs I represent, I win for myself and for those who love me. I don't win against someone."


Ballon d'Or winners

  • Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain/Argentina)
  • Ballon d'Or Feminin: Alexia Putellas (Barcelona/Spain)
  • Kopa Trophy for the best U-21 player: Pedri (Barcelona/Spain)
  • Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG/Italy)
  • Best Striker of the Year: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)
  • Best Club of the Year: Chelsea
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