At 36 years of age, Lionel Messi won the eighth Ballon d’Or of his storied career on Monday. The Inter Miami star finished ahead of the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.
“I couldn’t imagine having the career that I’ve had. Everything that I’ve achieved,” Messi said. “The fortune I’ve had playing for the best team in the world, the best team in history. It’s nice to win these individual trophies.
“To win the Copa America and then the World Cup, to get it done is amazing. All of them [Ballon d’Or awards] are special for different reasons.”
The World Cup was the one trophy Messi had yet to win prior to the World Cup in 2022. He came close to winning in 2014 but fell short to Germany. The 2018 World Cup ended in disappointment as Argentina crashed out against France in the round of 16.
Messi also heaped praise on Mbappe and Haaland, stating that he sees both of them battling it out for the award in the years to come. He stressed the fact that the sport is in good hands with the number of young players coming up.
It was also a special occasion as it was the birthday of the late Diego Maradona.
“My last mention is for Diego,” Messi said. “Today is his birthday. So I would like to remember him from here, surrounded by the best players, coaches and people who love football like he did.
“Wherever you are, Diego, happy birthday. This goes also to you.”
While some may argue as to how deserving Messi was of the award, considering Erling Haaland won a treble with Manchester City, the fact of the matter is the World Cup is weighed heavily.
Messi was the best player in the tournament, delivering seemingly game after game following the stunning loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening match. He delivered on the big stage, leaving behind memorable goals and moments of sheer brilliance.
Based on those metrics, yes, he is deserving of the award. A record eighth Ballon d’Or for arguably the greatest player of all time.