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Controversy grows as Lionel Messi claims his 7th Ballon D'or

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi broke his own record and lifted his seventh Ballon D'or at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris as the Argentine continued to extend his gap between himself and the rest from football's most lucrative prize on offer.

The Argentine came out on top ahead of Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Italy's Jorginho to win the award, but there are huge disagreements in the footballing world as to whether this was the right call or not to award Messi the trophy. As we might all know, the 2020 Ballon D'or ceremony was called off by France Football last year due to Covid-19 which saw the Polish striker miss out on the prestigious award.

However, it was highly expected that Robert Lewandowski would make up for the lost opportunity this year after proving the numbers right once again that he is still on top of his game at a fine age of 33, but things went in favour of the Argentinian.

A Deeper look into it

The Ballon D'or is awarded by France Football and in an attempt to credit the winner in a just and worthy manner, France Football sends out ballots to 180 journalists from 180 different countries to cast their vote.

In reality, the votes are mostly in favour of certain players who play for high‐profile clubs, successful clubs and especially to those players who have an image of themselves that every corner in the world will know about (guys like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi come in that category).

On the other hand, there are other factors that go in favour of a player in case they are forwards as they have loads of opportunities to score goals. Even if you're an attacking midfield player, you got to put in a lot of hard yards on a consistent basis to outscore and outshine the forwards that our beautiful game has in store for us in the modern world.

If you look at it, there are three principles that further strengthen the usual criteria for the Ballon D'or winner. They are:

  1. Individual and team performance in 2021 calendar year between Jan 1 to October 24. (Just 10 months to be honest
  2. Talent and sportsmanship of the player.
  3. Overall career of the player.

These principles? Hmmm. You could say that the first principle is "worthy" to be considered. Let's look at the numbers and we'll rank them accordingly:

  1. Lewandowski: 45 goals in 35 games for Bayern Munich + broke the Bundesliga goal-scoring record.
  2. Messi: 31 goals in 36 games
  3. Jorginho: Ignore the numbers in terms of goals (9 goals) as he's a central defensive midfielder for club and country.

Here's what they won collectively based on the first principle:

  1. Lewandowski: Bundesliga + German Cup
  2. Messi: Copa del Rey with FC Barcelona + Copa América with Argentina
  3. Jorginho: Champions League with Chelsea + Euro 2020 with Italy

If you look at it again, the Ballon D'or should probably go in favour of Messi and Jorginho as they have satisfied the first principle to a certain extent, while Lewandowski will be having his own claim of scoring goals, breaking records and winning two silverwares (We'll come back to that a bit later).

The next two criterias are quite questionable.

Talent and sportsmanship! Hohoho...there's a big hole in the system for that principle to come about.

Sportsmanship is totally fine. We live for the spirit of the game and we fight for equality everytime a player steps on the field, but Talent? That is totally subjective in nature for the award to go in favour of a player who is much more talented than the others. If "Talent" was a principle at which France Football wanted to judge a player on, then it is completely unfair to the midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers.

Hey, finding a pass through the eye of a needle also comes in the "talent" category. Sliding in to make a crucial tackle is also a talent (Aaron Wan-Bissaka continuously coming in with a tackle is a talent of his own). In terms of goalkeepers, they've got talent too. It's not easy to guard the frames of the post when you've got such high-profile outfield players in the game (Donnarumma is regarded very highly in world football as one of Europe's finest talented goalkeepers at a very young age. It seems like his huge stature helps him a lot to guard the goal frame).

It seems as though that "Talent" goes in favour of the forwards. Of course it takes talent and skill to break down defences and score goals, but that doesn't mean that the value of a player irrespective of their position is shoved down the drain when it comes to the Ballon D'or.

Finally, we have the final principle, i.e., the "Player's overall career." You can consider yourself "out of the race" if you are not Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.

In modern day football, the stand-out pick is Lewandowski himself. He's got 453 top-flight career goals while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have 799 and 676 top-flight career goals. That's a gap of 200 odd goals just to get in level terms with the Argentinian.

Our only claim is that we strongly feel that the rules/criteria/principles need to be re-examined to make the award much more comprehensive and just.

Was it fair?

Well, some might say that it "was" fair for Lionel Messi to win the Ballon D'or. Yeah, they might be right, they have the right to have their own opinions. But, really?

Bayern Munich's striker has had the best 12-18 months of his career by scoring goals left, right and centre. Adding to that, he's won the Champions League as well in the calendar year in which the prestigious award was cancelled due to the football season being interrupted by the Pandemic.

The Ballon D'or or all about bringing out the right and true winner of the award. France Football just made an added trophy for the Polish international just so that they are able to tape over the horrendous decision to cancel the award ceremony last year. It was unfair for Bayern's talisman.

The personal and collective numbers still suggest and prove that Lewandowski has been the stand-out player in the last 12-18 months.

So why Messi?

Lionel Messi won his first ever international trophy for his country when his side beat Brazil in the Copa America final. It was a tournament where he was the MVP and showed why he is still regarded very highly in world football. But his performances for club football do not stand-out if you compare it with Lewandowski. If you compare Messi's performances for his country with Robert, then Messi clearly has the upper hand.

However, here comes the dilemma. In the Copa America, only Brazil is a reputed side that has a lot of quality and strength in their squad. Uruguay, Chile and Colombia have lost their talented players through retirement and many of them are at the twilight of their career.

Yes, the Argentinian football side have gone through a change in terms of the personnel they have right now in sky blue colours, but it's a generational change that still has a lot of quality and talent which helped them keep Brazil at bay in the final. That win certainly caused a shockwaves across the internet as pictures emerged online and on television of Messi lifting the gigantic Copa America trophy. He deserves a lot of credit as he carried his side to glory.

When it comes to Lewandowski, his national side Poland, crashed out of the Euro's in the group stages itself as they claimed only a point in their three group games. The Polish striker scored just one goal in the tournament which came against the runner up of the Euro's - Spain. That early knockout from the competition definitely hurt his chances to give his closest rival a really good run for his money.

At the same time, we need to understand the difference between Copa America and the Euro's. There is a difference in the quality and pace of the games played in either tournament.

At the Euro's, you have France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic, Wales, Switzerland and many other European countries that have a lot of quality in their squads as compared to Poland. Well, there shouldn't be any real excuses for how Poland have performed in that tournament. If they made it to the Quarter finals, you could say that Robert would be in good hands to win the award.

It is quite unfair that the Polish hasn't won the award as he was a lot more consistent than Messi.

It can be understood that France Football have followed their usual way of going with things as they reward the player who was in prime form individually and a player who has been more influential collectively in terms of trophies for their respective sides, but it's not a good benchmark for what the award stands for.

If you look at it, there could be an argument made for Jorginho. The defensive midfielder has stood up for club and country on numerous occasions from time to time. On top of that, he has won the UEFA Champions League and the European trophy. You could even add the UEFA Super Cup later in there. The only downside for him was that his numbers in terms of goals was far lower than Messi and Lewandowski.

In our opinion, in the last 10 months, Messi hasn't done much to suggest that he wins the Ballon D'or by a fair margin. In hindsight, the last 10 months clearly belonged to Lewandowski and Jorginho. They were heads above shoulders than Messi.

It seems as though that journalist's and voters have voted for Messi just because he is the fans favourite. He is the favourite for many people around the world. Cristiano Ronaldo might be getting all the glitterati on social media, but those are just mere things for players of Cristiano's calibre.

Maybe, we are also underestimating the fact that Messi has not been able to put up staggering numbers on the board in the last two years. Of course, the man is aging, his numbers will decrease as he grows older, but such is the demand for "proof" and "reliability" when it comes to the awarding of the Ballon D'or. The decisions taken should be professional. There is no room for personal bias.

Sadly, we strongly believe that the Ballon D'or was given to Messi based on biased decisions made by the majority of journalists worldwide and all the voters who voted.