“Lionel Messi has already won two and he will be the player with the most Ballon d’Or [titles] in history, Being the player that he is, he can still win many more. He will win five, six or seven.” Barcelona great Johan Cruyff – who passed away in March 2016 – told Ole via Goal.
Six years later, Lionel Messi turned the Cruyff’s prophecy into reality by winning his record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or. The France Football magazine awarded the coveted golden ball on November 29 as Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain this summer, add another one to his cabinet. The win put Messi two Ballon d’Or ahead of his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the race of the G.O.A.T seems to be settled as of now. The 34-year-old had his share of ups and downs this year as he first won his first major trophy with Argentina – Copa America and then was forced to leave Barcelona after a financial crisis in the club, the talisman joined Paris Saint-Germain where injury halted his playing time on the field a lot. And at the end of the year, 7th Ballon d’Or trophy helped him finish the year on a high.
However, Messi has been facing a lot of criticism as many football pundits and players feel that Robert Lewandowski deserved to win the trophy ahead of the Argentine. The Bayern Munich striker finished second on the podium and was also awarded the newly-launched Striker of the Year Award for his sensational year.
Lewandowski was truly outstanding in front of goals the entire season but is very unfair to not give credit to Messi for his success. The La Pulga netted 41 goals and 17 assists this year where he dragged a vulnerable and self-deprecating Barcelona side by the scruff of its neck, putting it on his shoulders to put them relevant in the European League. Messi was the reason why Barcelona fought for the league title till the end but he didn’t get ample support from his teammates to get off the finishing line. However, Messi, who was the captain of a sinking ship, guide them to the Copa Del Rey trophy to add something to the Barcelona cabinet. The Catalan giants beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 as Messi netted a brace in the crucial final. Many said that Messi disappeared in the big games didn’t have a look at his stats. He has scored 31 goals and has given 13 assists in 31 finals played with his club, while his arch-rival Ronaldo is far behind him with 20 goals and 2 assists in 29 finals played in club football.
It was a great year for Messi with the national team as he guided them to their first major trophy after 28 years – Copa America 2021. The South American Cup has always been one of the toughest tournaments in the footballing world due to his playing style which is very defensive and rough at the same time. Messi carried Argentina on his shoulders once again and took them to the final for the third time in the last four Copa America tournaments. The 34-year-old netted four goals and provided five assists while creating the most chances for his team (21). He made 295 passes (239 complete), with an effectiveness of 81%. He also attempted 57 dribbles with 34 completed.
He was named Player of the Tournament and the Golden Boot at the Copa America. Messi also received his record-extending eight Pichichi trophy for scoring most goals in La Liga 20/21 season – 30.
On the other hand, Lewandowski scored 64 goals, 10 assists this year and won Bundesliga, Club World Cup & DFL-Supercup. The Polish striker was astonishing in front of goals as he also broke the long-standing Gerd Muller’s record of most goals in a Bundesliga season – 41. As a striker, Lewandowski did everything right, however, Bayern missed out on the back-to-back Champions League glory. The 34-year-old missed the quarterfinals against Paris-Saint Germain due to injury as Bayern fall short in front of the French giants.
However, failed to be decisive with the national team as Poland were eliminated from the Euro 2020 in the group stage and the team also failed to qualify for the FIFA 2022 World Qualifiers as they now have to play the playoffs.
Lewandowski was class apart in the year 2020 but at the time it was the France Football magazine who robbed him of the Ballon d’Or. And Messi during his winning speech also admitted that Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d’Or last year and the organizers should give him the golden ball for that.
“Robert, you deserve your Ballon d’Or. Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner of this award,” Messi said in his speech.
“Hopefully France Football will give you the 2020 Ballon d’Or. We all believe you deserved it and I hope you can have it at home,” the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner added.
Lewandowski won every trophy with Bayern Munich in 2020 but the France Football magazine cancelled the award ceremony in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unfair to say, Messi robbed Lewandowski’s golden ball but it was the organizers who did that with him. Messi earned 613 points in the voting for the 2021 trophy while Lewandowski scored 580. The golden ball was for the 2021 year and it was the organizer’s fault to hold it last year or make it a combined ceremony for last year. If it was the award for the 2020 and 2021 season then Lewandowski’s case was stronger than Messi’s but looking at the achievements, Messi truly deserved the trophy this year while the Bayern Munich striker was clear in 2020.