The 2023 Ballon d’or award ceremony is done and dusted, and as revealed by many reliable sources weeks ago, the 2022 FIFA World Cup-winning skipper Lionel Messi won his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or in last night’s prize presentation. The 36-year-old former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player edged out tough opponents for his eighth Ballon d’Or win in this prestigious honour, including three Manchester City players (Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri) as well as his former club teammate at PSG Kylian Mbappé.
Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or certainly put some daylight between him and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now three Ballon d’Ors behind the Inter Miami CF captain, but questions have been sparked on whether the Argentine deserved to win his eighth crown yesterday.
How Did Messi Win His Eighth Ballon d’Or?
The 2023 Ballon d’Or was the second time in the award history that players were judged based on their performances in the past football season instead of a calendar year. According to the period from 1st August 2022 to 31st July 2023, the eventual winner Messi bagged 21 goals and assisted 20 times as a Paris Saint-Germain player, helping the club to win their 11th French Ligue 1 title, but what truly made the 36-year-old win his eighth Ballon d’Or was of course his achievement of leading the Argentina national team to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last December.
In the first ever Winter World Cup, Messi led La Albiceleste to their third FIFA World Cup triumph by scoring seven goals, providing three assists and winning five Match of the Match awards. The penalty shootout victory against France saw Argentina shrugged off their disappointing loss against Germany eight years ago, allowing the South American nation to be ranked the fourth most successful country in the history of the quadrennial competition with three wins.
During the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony, Messi was given his eighth Ballon d’Or award by the co-owner at Inter Miami CF and former Manchester United megastar David Beckham.
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Messi: “I Couldn’t Have Dreamed of Having the Career That I Had.”
La Pulga had this to say for his eighth Ballon d’Or win last night: “They’re all special these awards, the most special is the team prizes. It’s always special to be recognised. I couldn’t have dreamed of having the career that I had, everything I’ve achieved. To have the success, the fortune I’ve had. The best team in the world, the best team in history, makes it so much easier to win so many titles, to win these individual prizes. To win the Copa America and then to get the World Cup, after so many difficult moments in the national team.”
The ex-Barca and PSG man also added about his feelings on Miami: “I’m very happy to be at Inter Miami and find myself in the situation I’m in. I’m enjoying some different moments in life with my family. Being a world champion was fantastic. I feel so calm right now with this prize. To be able to have the career I’ve had, and enjoy football as much as I have. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be going for, but I’m inclined to enjoy it. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, I want to keep enjoying [it].
“I don’t how long [I will keep playing], as long as I am fit physically and can compete, I am going to keep doing it. I can’t put a number on anything because football changes so much from day to day. I wish it would be for a long time because it is what I know and love to do. So, I wish to keep going.”
Messi winning Ballon d’Or over Haaland is like… pic.twitter.com/0EChFHnRfw
— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) October 30, 2023
The Elephant in the Room: Does Messi Deserve to Win His Eighth Ballon d’Or? Maybe Not
While many are celebrating Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or win, others have raised questions and controversies on whether the Argentine did deserve the 2023 award, especially after he edged out other world-class players such as Haaland and Mbappé. For the third-placed Mbappé, he had 41 goals and 10 assists for PSG in the league title-winning year, whereas his performance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup saw him led the injury-plagued Les Bleus to their second successive finale, winning the Golden Boot award with eight goals as a result.
Haaland, on the other hand, was even greater in terms of these categories last season; While his starless Norway side did not manage to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals in Qatar, the 23-year-old striker sensation had 52 goals and nine assists in 53 appearances in all competitions for Manchester City in 2022/2023, doing it so in his first season with a club from the recognised toughest football league in the world.
Perhaps Mbappé had underachieved with his club and country in 2022/2023, but in the case of Haaland’s, who made the Cityzens to earn only the second ever continental treble for an English club, with the other being Manchester United in the 1998/1999 Season, he certainly had every reason to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or over Messi, who was given his eighth Ballon d’Or honour “Based” on a four-week FIFA World Cup performance in Qatar with four of his seven goals at the quadrennial competition coming from the spot.
Bonmatí Wins the 2023 Ballon d’Or Féminin
Messi was not the only FIFA World Cup winner to bag home the 2023 Ballon d’Or; Apart from La Pulga, who won his eighth Ballon d’Or yesterday, 25-year-old midfielder Aitana Bonmatí also won the 2023 Ballon d’Or Féminin as the member of Spain’s disputed 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning squad. Bonmatí’s win at the ceremony marked a third consecutive victory for a Spanish and FC Barcelona Femení star, having won the last two through Alexia Putellas.
In addition to Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or and Bonmatí’s inaugural win in the women’s category, several stars and teams also went on to capture other awards, such as Haaland (The Gerd Müller Trophy), Jude Bellingham (The Kopa Trophy), Emiliano Martínez (The Yashin Trophy), Vinícius Júnior (The Socrates Award), Manchester City and FC Barcelona Femení (Clubs of the Season awards).