For all the change that has transpired around Lionel Messi lately, the most heart-warming of the bunch is the 34-year-old Argentine renewing his grasp on soccer’s top individual prize – with a seventh win. Prior to the entertaining chaos of his abrupt Barcelona exit and the rapid pivot to Paris Saint Germain was a year in which he performed at a prolific level. It was unlike before, not because of an overwhelmingly dominant season for his club – but mainly the influential run with his national team to a major international title.
Lionel Messi’s epochal Ballon d’Or triumph in the late hours of Monday, 29th November 2021, is a piece of firm evidence telling the world that Messi is a way ahead of every footballer. A chunk of pundits and spectators from around the globe who rooted for his rivals’ have, though, filled the air with their grave disapproval, claiming that Messi and the prestigious Ballon d’Or organizers rigged the voting process and crowned him once again.
However, disproving the trending, confusing waves is easy: What criteria is the Ballon d’Or awarded? Are there links between Messi and France Football or FIFA other footballers do not share that Messi successfully rigged votes to secure every win?
A flashback to June, when anti-Messi soccer enthusiasts began a Ballon d’Or campaign for Ngolo Kante upon seeing that the Portuguese favourite had lost grasp of the award, having provided insufficient stats to make him a forerunner. Then came July, succeeding the Euros and the América Cup. Many agreed Messi had successfully dominated the season while others drummed support for Jorginho, who won the Euros and the 2021 UCL with Italy and Chelsea, respectively.
It’s disheartening that anti-Messi fans kept leaping from one candidate to another to ensure La Pulga did not clinch his seventh golden ball. Karim Benzema enjoyed their support immediately after the UEFA Nations League until their eventual return to push Lewandowski for the prize. It’s preposterous to claim that Messi and France Football manipulated votes because facts never lie. A major tournament, the Copa América, influenced Messi’s award as he led the Albicelestes to their first Copa América glory since 1993. His contributions helped the team to the finals; with four goals and five assists, the most of the tournament in both categories. The crowning achievement set him firmly on the Ballon d’Or radar.
Unfortunately, it’s not new. Things only change whenever it’s Messi’s turn. Cristiano Ronaldo is a football legend, but joining the bandwagon in branding France Football is “corrupt” because his old rival, Messi, won, is unsportsmanly. Everyone needs to accept that there are some things in soccer that only Messi can boast claims of – A seventh Ballon d’Or will remain unbeatable for at least centuries. Holding the most official assists in football and European golden shoes in history is epic and bizarre. The 2012 record of 90+ goals in a calendar year also is not what anyone can easily do.
We may not see another player like Messi. Thus, we must come to terms with reality and appreciate his quality. Unarguably, he is the best individualist to have graced the football game, and it is unwise to discredit his achievement. Leo Messi is to football as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are to physics and mathematics – he is a complete package. He not only possesses the full set of relevant, desirable characteristics of football’s Greatest Of All Time (GOAT), but he has also redefined football and the narrative of people who are not lucky in the size category.
Big or small, underprivileged or not, just like Messi, you can achieve whatever you envision!