Made for Messi

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

If there were any doubts that the Argentine great would win yet another Ballon d’Or, they were put to rest on Monday, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani




When Lionel Messi led Argentina to winning the World Cup in Qatar last year, his chances of also winning the Ballon d’Or this year as the world’s best player jumped exponentially to the high 90s.

It became 100 per cent in Paris on Monday night when Messi won his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or crown.

Messi won the sport’s biggest individual prize based primarily on his World Cup heroics. In Qatar, he was involved in 10 goals for Argentina, scoring seven and assisting three. He scored twice in the final against France.

His final season with PSG was less stellar. Although PSG won a record-extending 11th French league, it again exited the Champions League, the trophy Messi was brought in specifically to win, in the round of 16.

The one player standing in Messi’s way was Erling Haaland, the blond bomber who scored a record-breaking 36 goals in 35 Premier League games. He hit 52 in 53 games in all competitions, leading Manchester City to the Premier League title and the Champions League. The Norwegian ultimately finished second, unlucky to have such a brilliant season at the same time Messi was having his.

Haaland’s consolation was winning the Gerd Muller Trophy for best goalscorer.

Finishing third in the balloting was Paris Saint-Germain and France forward Kylian Mbappe who scored only the second hat trick in a World Cup final in the 4-2 penalty shootout loss to Argentina and was the top scorer in Qatar with eight goals.

Aitana Bonmati won the women’s award for guiding Spain to victory at the Women’s World Cup in August. She also helped Barcelona win the Women’s Champions League and Spanish league.

“It’s nice to be here once more to enjoy this moment,” Messi said after winning the award. “To be able to win the World Cup and achieve my dream.”

The former Barcelona and Paris St-Germain star, who this year went to Inter Miami in the US, added through an interpreter: “I couldn’t imagine having the career I’ve had and everything I’ve achieved, the fortune I’ve had to be part of the best team in history.

“All of them [Ballon d’Or awards] are special for different reasons.”

Messi, 36, now has won three more Ballon d’Or awards than anyone else, with Cristiano Ronaldo having won it five times. The Portugal international, who plays for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia, was not named on the shortlist for the first time since 2003.

England and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham won the Kopa Trophy for the world’s best player aged under 21.

Argentina World Cup winner and Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez won the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper in the world.

Manchester City were named the club of the year for the second year running. Under Pep Guardiola, they became only the second English team to win the treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season.

Real Madrid winger Vinicius Jr, who finished sixth, received the Socrates Award for his work off the field, starting a foundation that is building schools in impoverished areas and investing in education in Brazil. He also vowed to keep speaking out against racism of which he has been a target of regularly in La Liga games for the past two seasons.


Egypt captain and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah finished 11th, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since he started competing in the Ballon d’Or in 2018.

Bonmati followed in the footsteps of her teammate Alexia Putellas who took the past two awards. “We are a country that lives football, intensely,” Bonmati said. “We have a unique talent in Spain.”

The women’s trophy was created in 2018.

Last year’s men’s winner was Karim Benzema, who at 34 became the oldest winner since the first recipient in 1956, Stanley Matthews.

For the second time in the history of the award, it was given based on the results of the season instead of the calendar year, with the season starting on 1 August 2022 and ending 31 July 2023.

For the men’s Ballon d’Or award, votes were cast by 180 journalists from FIFA’s 100 top-ranked member nations, with each representing a different country. Each journalist made their top five picks from the 30-man shortlist, with each ranking earning a different points value/number of votes.

For example, a number one pick will get 6 points; number 2 will get 4 points; number 3 will get 3 points; number 4 will get two points, and number 5 will get a point, and so on. At the end of the voting, the player with the most points is declared the winner.

Editors from L’equipe, France’s most decorated magazine, came up with the 30-man shortlist.

Despite other significant individual accolades, such as the FIFA Best Awards, the Ballon d’Or has maintained its status as the greatest individual honour a player can receive.

The awards ceremony were once again held at the illustrious Parisian venue, the Theatre du Chatelet.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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