Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi has weighed in on the 2022 Ballon d’Or discussions and has stated that Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema deserves to win the award.
Both players were El Clasico rivals for 12 years and shared some classic moments on the pitch. Messi came out top in most of their meetings but Benzema put in some good showings.
Messi faced Benzema in the just concluded UEFA Champions League which Real Madrid won. The French striker scored a hattrick to pull Madrid from the brink and dump Messi and PSG out of the tournament. Messi believes that the 34-year-old should get this year’s award on the strength of his performances which saw him win the Pichichi and helped Madrid clinch a 35th LaLiga title.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner said to TyC Sports: “I think there are no doubts Benzema should win Ballon d’Or. It is very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up elevating himself with the Champions League, being essential from the last 16 onwards in all the games.
“I think there are no doubts this year.”
There were doubts in the last awards ceremony when Messi claimed his record-extending seventh award in the wake of extraordinary performance from Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. Messi won last year’s award on the back of his national team exploits which ended with Argentina winning the 2020 Copa America title. His club performances were also impressive, as he dominated most of the stats in Europe.
Following the award, Messi conceded that Lewandowski deserved to win the 2020 award – which was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic – and asked that France Football, organisers of the award, be gracious and present it to Lewandowski.
The striker, however, saw Messi’s comments as patronising, saying they contained empty words and then came out later to say that the speech touched him. TyC Sports brought up the issue and Messi finally addressed it almost a year on. “Everyone says what they want and obviously he can express himself and say what he wants,” he said.
“I honestly don’t share what he said but I didn’t give it much importance either. That’s it, it was there and he can say what he wants and I do not care.”
Messi will surely be missing from the podium in the coming awards and could end up outside the top ten in the coming awards, even lower than his 2018 finish when he finished in fifth place. Lewandowski, meanwhile, could be given another shot at the award.