Lionel Messi might still be getting used to his new surroundings as a Paris Saint-Germain player, but the French capital is a familiar setting for him.
After all, it’s where the 34-year-old has been crowned the best male player in the world many times over the course of his career with France Football handing Messi a record seventh Ballon d’Or on Monday night.
One wonders how Cristiano Ronaldo, sat at home amid a public row with France Football editor-in-chief Pascal Ferre over claims that his last ambition in football is to win more Ballons d’Or than Messi, reacted to seeing his great adversary with another golden ball in his clutches.
The personal duel between Messi and Ronaldo has defined an entire era of football at the elite level with fans divided into two camps over who they believe to be the greatest of all-time (GOAT).
A certain tribalism has developed around the two players such is the strength of feeling on both sides.
However, the award of a seventh Ballon d’Or proves once and for all that Messi stands taller than all others, even Ronaldo who appears destined to end his career on five. The exact criteria for winning the Ballon d’Or might be disputed, but nobody can deny the symbolism of Messi’s haul.
The argument that Robert Lewandowski should have won the 2021 Ballon d’Or ahead of Messi is a strong one. Indeed, the Bayern Munich and Poland striker enjoyed an exceptional 12 months, breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing record for the most goals in a single Bundesliga season and setting the pace for the most goals at the top of the European game for club and country. He was unmatched in that respect.
Messi himself even acknowledged Lewandowski’s achievements over the last two years as he accepted the 2021 Ballon d’Or on stage. “You deserve your Ballon d’Or,” the Paris Saint-Germain player said.
“Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner”, Messi praised the Polish striker.
Robert Lewandowski went home with the striker of the year award while Chelsea scooped the best club of the year award.