Messi’s sadly shameful eighth Ballon d’Or
Lionel Messi has won his eighth Ballon d’Or in a year where he only won a very questionable and objectionable World Cup in Qatar’s 2022 fiasco of a 48-day winter tourney. During the 301-day soccer season that the award is supposed to cover, Messi underperformed at his club side, PSG, both at the domestic and European levels, and produced few of his normal handfuls of magical performances. He did have a good World Cup—in particular his game against the Dutch.
Over that same year, Messi’s teammate, Kylian Mbappe, was PSG’s best player, and his league’s top scorer and he led his team to a Ligue 1 title. During the World Cup, it would be hard to argue he was not Messi’s equal, and certainly, his performance in the final was one for the ages.
Over that same year, a certain Erling Haaland, shattered the Premier League scoring record, was Europe’s top domestic league scorer, and won the Premier League, F.A. Cup, and UEFA Champions League, but did not make the World Cup since he plays for non-qualifier Norway. Oh, well.
The Ballon d’Or is supposed to be given to the man who had the best yearly performance, not the best 16% of a year, or a 7-game tourney, and certainly not for winning a cup in which the government of the host nation, the international organizing entity, the referees, and the world media, all assisted in delivering the cup to Messi & Company. The award also does not go to the best player in the world who just happened not to have a good year overall.
For Papa’s money, it should have been a choice between Haaland and Mbappe. Messi did not have a great year; he had a good single tourney. But that is only the reason why the award is shameful; he did not deserve it. The reason it is sad he won is an entirely different story.
The headlines are that Messi won his eighth trophy but that assumes he deserved and won the seven previous ones. If he did, those seven years would have brought many individual and team triumphs, making each of those previous Ballon d’Or trophies worthy. But sadly, that was not the case.
What we have learned is that FC Barcelona paid bribes to referees for calls made in favor of their club during the period 2001—2018. If La Liga and the Spanish Soccer Federation, and UEFA and FIFA, had a shred of integrity, they would have stripped the club of all the titles and trophies they won over that time period and stripped their players of any awards they won over that same period of time. Barca won nine La Liga trophies, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copa del Rey titles, and Messi won four league-scoring titles, six Golden Shoes, and six Ballon d’Or trophies over that time frame. What we might have been celebrating would have been Messi’s second individual award for having the best year among all soccer players globally. But even that was not the case.
Which brings us to the sad and shameful phrase in the title. Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players ever to have played the game—period. It is a shame that the world he lives in is corrupt and thus the awards his talent should have fairly garnered have been irrevocably tarnished. He deserved better. But most importantly, to Papa, our sport deserves better. In this case, there is no way to do justice to both Messi and Soccer, so for those who love the man and those who love the sport their sentiments will differ. I love our sport first and foremost.