Lionel Messi showcased once more that age is merely a number, securing his eighth Ballon d’Or award at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday. At 36 years old, the Inter Miami star emerged victorious in a list of 30 candidates in the men’s category, surpassing Manchester City’s Erling Haaland. Despite Haaland’s remarkable treble win with Manchester City, claiming the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup last season, it was Messi’s unforgettable 2022-23 season, guiding Argentina to FIFA World Cup glory in Qatar the previous year, that captured the Ballon d’Or.
Messi , expressing gratitude on stage after receiving the Ballon d’Or award from David Beckham, co-owner of Inter Miami, Messi remarked, “This is a tribute to the entire Argentina team for what we accomplished.” He dedicated the trophy to the late Argentine legend Diego Maradona, whose 63rd birthday fell on the same day. “Happy birthday, Diego. This is also for you,” he added.
The recent change in award criteria, focusing on a player’s performance over the last season rather than the calendar year, worked in Messi’s favor. Aged 36, he clinched his first Ballon d’Or in 2009. Now boasting eight, he stands three trophies ahead of his longstanding rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who follows as the next most decorated player in the award’s history.
The future holds uncertainties regarding Messi’s continued presence as a potential candidate for the prize, as it depends on the vote of one journalist in each of the top 100 nations in the FIFA ranking.
Regarding his future prospects, Messi mentioned, “I’m savoring the present and not contemplating the long-term future.”
World Cup Glory
The triumph in Qatar signifies that Messi has now claimed victory in every major tournament for his country. In the World Cup final, Argentina emerged victorious against France, securing a 4-2 win in penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw. In an intense face-off, the CONMEBOL side initially took the lead in the 23rd minute as the Argentine captain converted a penalty due to a foul on Angel Di Maria in the French box. Shortly after, a swift counter-attack in the 36th minute led to Alexis MacAllister assisting Di Maria, extending the lead to 2-0.
Despite Argentina appearing to cruise to a comfortable victory, Kylian Mbappe intervened, orchestrating a remarkable comeback for France. The PSG forward swiftly equalized proceedings, scoring an 80th-minute penalty, and then leveling the score to 2-2 in the 81st minute with a stunning volley. During extra time, Messi seemed to have secured the win for Argentina when he scored in the 108th minute, making it 3-2. However, Mbappe once again came to his team’s aid in the 118th minute, equalizing to make it 3-3. After extra time, the match proceeded to a penalty shootout, where goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez excelled, denying Aurélien Tchouameni and Kingsley Coman as Argentina sealed a 4-2 shootout victory.
For his outstanding performances in Qatar, Messi was honored with the Golden Ball and also awarded the Silver Boot as the tournament’s second-highest goalscorer.