3 reasons Lionel Messi shouldn’t have won the Ballon d’Or
The Ballon d’Or is the biggest award for football players in the world. Lionel Messi snagged the honors this year, but more on that in a second.
Awarded by a panel of football journalists, the award is a sign of excellence and a point of pride for every player that won it. It has been dominated in the last decade or so by two names – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The only player that has won it since 2008 that is not Messi or Ronaldo has been Luka Modric in 2018. However, the award also caused controversy many times, the most recent example being the cancellation for 2020 due to COVID-19, when many believed Robert Lewandowski should have won it.
This year, it was Lionel Messi that took the award home for the record seventh time. This edition was also not devoid of criticism, as many out there firmly believe that the Argentinian did not deserve to win. Here are three reasons why Lionel Messi should not have won the prestigious Ballon d’Or.
Lionel Messi Ballon d’Or Debacle
Lionel Messi has had a great season by his personal standards. He won the top goal-scorer of La Liga, with 30 goals in 35 appearances in the league. Additionally, he had 38 goals in all competitions last season, which is a great tally. However, it has been overshadowed by the terrible success of his team. Barcelona finished third overall in the La Liga race, seven points behind the winners Atletico Madrid and five behind arch-rivals Real Madrid.
In the Champions League, Barcelona finished second in their group behind Juventus. However, in the knock-out stage, they were embarrassed by PSG. The French team won 4-1 behind a hat-trick by Kylian Mbappe at the Camp Nou, the same place where Juventus won the final game of the group 3-0. Messi did score two goals, including a screamer in the return leg in Paris, but it was not enough to carry his team over the finish line.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that Messi finally added one of two trophies that evaded him his whole career. He led Argentina to a win in Copa America, leaving just the World Cup for Messi to win internationally. However, the Copa America, while a rough trophy to win, is usually overshadowed by other continental tournaments, like the EURO. Of course, Messi also added a Copa Del Rey with Barcelona, winning in the final versus Athletic Bilbao in a dominating 4-0 win.
Performance in huge games
Over the last period of Messi’s career, much of the criticism was pointed towards his performances in deciding games. A lot of critics stated that he stat-padded against smaller teams, while in the big games, he was nowhere to be found. While a player of Messi’s caliber cannot be out of any game, due to his ability to impact matches with one sequence of play, this rings true for last season as well.
Overall, Lionel Messi did score 30 goals in the last La Liga campaign he had for Barcelona. However, against the top six clubs in Spain, Messi scored a total of four goals in 10 matches. That includes zero goals in two El Clasicos, which are considered to be the biggest games in the world. Out of the four, three came against surprise sixth-place Real Betis, with the last coming against Sevilla. In the Champions League, he scored a total of five goals, four came as a result of penalties. One came against Juventus in the group stage, and that was in the 91st minute to solidify a 2-0 win away from home.
In Copa America, three of his four goals came in the group stage of the tournament. Two came against a lowly Bolivia side, and in the knock-outs, he scored one against Ecuador in the 93rd minute to seal a 3-0 win. In the semi-final and the final, he did not score any goals, as the deciding goal against Brazil was scored by Angel Di Maria. A totality of his goals in that season came against lower-end teams, and while Messi can impact the game in a myriad of ways, storylines after many huge matches were filled with criticism against his play.
Stark arguments can be made for other players
In a season where Jorginho led a Chelsea midfield to a Champions League winners medal, and Italy to the win in the EURO’s, it is difficult to see how Messi’s case is stronger. The Italian midfielder is not as flashy, nor does he score a lot, but that is not his role. His role on the field was to solidify the midfield and keep the team balanced, and he did that in a great way. It is especially more impressive when it is considered that the Chelsea squad was in absolute shambles at the start of the season under Frank Lampard, and still won the Champions League at the end.
Another name that has a clear argument is Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker was robbed of a 2020 Ballon d’Or due to the cancellation of the event. While it would be unfair for him to win it just based on that, he still had an amazing season for Bayern Munich. Messi did win the Copa America while Poland was knocked out in the group stage, but to compare the quality of these two competitions and the national teams they represent would be unfair.
Overall, Lewandowski scored an uncanny 48 goals, including 41 in the Bundesliga where he broke a record for most goals scored in a single campaign in the German championship, previously held by German legend Gerd Muller. He does not impact the game like Lionel Messi, granted, but this goal-scoring tally is incredible and Lewandowski has every right to be frustrated with the outcome in the end.