Lionel Messi won his record eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday. He beat out the likes of Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, and Vinicius Junior to win the award. In the last 12 months, Messi did not have his best campaign at club level. However, his performance in Qatar during the 2022 World Cup allowed Argentina to win the competition for the third time. Therefore, journalists voted Messi as the best player from August 2022 to July 2023.
However, saying that his performance in the 2022 World Cup makes him the best player for the entire year is farcical. The Ballon d’Or ceremony puts far too much emphasis on international tournaments, whether the World Cup, Euros, or Copa America. It is not merely an example this year, either. For as dominant of a season as Erling Haaland put together with Manchester City last season, he deserved more consideration for the Ballon d’Or. Kylian Mbappe also provides a stern argument for winning the award.
Messi is deserving of the plaudits and praise for what he was able to do with Argentina. For one month in Qatar, Messi was on top of the world, which is a familiar spot for him. However, over the course of the year, Messi was not the best player in the world. His statistics with Paris Saint-Germain last season were among his worst. Even if it was an improvement compared to the 2021/22 campaign in France, it did not exceed some of the other stars of the game.
Comparing Lionel Messi to Haaland and Mbappe in the Ballon d’Or race
Anecdotally, I am a Lionel Messi fan, and I have been since I started watching Barcelona in the 2000s and 2010s. I will always support him in winning awards that further cement his spot as the greatest player ever. However, in the 2022/23 club and international season, he was not as good as other players. There is a legitimate case to argue he was not the best player on his team.
Messi scored 16 goals and provided 16 assists in league play last season with PSG. In his 41 showings in all competitions with PSG, he scored 21 goals and assisted 20 times. By comparison, Kylian Mbappe scored 41 goals and assisted a further 10 in 43 appearances. That is a better record than Messi. If bringing up the World Cup, Kylian Mbappe won the Golden Boot with France, including a hat trick in the final. Only Messi’s brace and a penalty shootout prevented Mbappe from winning his second World Cup.
In this case, winning that penalty shootout allowed Messi to win this year’s Ballon d’Or. Then, there are players who had even better club seasons. For example, Erling Haaland dominated with Manchester City.
En route to winning the treble, Erling Haaland scored a scintillating 52 goals in 53 games. He averaged better than a goal per game in the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. Those competitions are the two most vaunted when it comes to club soccer. He shattered the scoring record in the Premier League that stood for decades. Haaland won the award for the best player in the Premier League last season, too. Few would argue that Ligue 1 is a superior competition to the Premier League.
International duty is the difference-maker
Compared to those two, Lionel Messi did not have as good of a season. When it comes to awards, Erling Haaland deserves all the attention. Kylian Mbappe had a massively similar season to Messi both for club and country. The 100 journalists from the top-ranked nations in FIFA place too much of an emphasis on Messi winning the World Cup.
That alone is likely enough for Messi. The Argentine said he would trade all his individual awards for the World Cup. Now, he will increase his record number of individual awards because of his success with La Albiceleste.