Trash Talk: Lionel Messi entirely deserves his eighth Ballon d’Or

Messi’s last campaign has been severely underrated, but the award brings justice back to his season

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

“It could be today, Grandma,” murmured Messi under his breath as his Argentina teammate Gonzalo Montiel, took the last shoot-out penalty of the 2022 World Cup final. The moment the ball hit the back of the net, Lionel Messi secured his first ever World Cup, reinforcing his already set-in-stone legacy.

Argentina’s World Cup run was one of the many reasons why Messi was awarded the Ballon d’Or last October, an important reminder of how heavy his impact on the sport still is. While many have criticized the decision, Messi’s league-spanning and history-making career absolutely merits him the award. 

Before Messi joined Inter Miami CF last July, he sealed his European journey and international recognition by securing a second Ligue 1 title with the football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). With such a resume, the Ballon d’Or race was bound to include the 36-year-old right winger. 

Messi’s competition for the award was fierce. Record-breaking Erling Haaland rose to the scene and Messi’s PSG teammate Kylian Mbappé entertained a steady World Cup campaign. Messi once again received the decoration. He deserved the award more than anyone else due to the consistency of his 2022-23 season, which was shown in more than just the World Cup’s seven games.

Haaland would’ve been a more rational pick, but not getting your country to qualify for a World Cup is surely a downvote. This led to Haaland’s performances being overshadowed, and we saw how less efficient he can be when not playing in Manchester City’s super team.

As for Paris’ star, Mbappé was eclipsed by both Haaland’s European competition performances and Messi’s campaign. Although he had a good season at PSG with 48 goals, he failed to prove himself in the Champions League rounds of 16, as he performed poorly against Bayern Munich. He additionally lost the World Cup final to Argentina despite his best efforts. 

Messi’s Ligue 1 run was greater than he’s been given credit for. His 21 goals and 20 assists for PSG last season get close to Mbappé’s 49 goal involvements. However, Messi is much more of a complete player than Mbappé, as he is more involved in the game. Last season in Ligue 1, he completed a total of 300 progressive passes compared to Mbappé’s 48.

In international play, Messi tallied 38 goals and 25 assists, averaging 76 minutes per goal contributions with Argentina.  This season, Mbappe tallied 16 goals with France, and Haaland had 12 with Norway. The stats he is still pulling off at 36-years-old (this is without counting his Inter Miami stats) is absolutely mind-blowing.  

Messi seems to have completed the game of soccer. His list of awards is endless—about 44 collective trophies and 55 individual awards—including The Best FIFA Football Awards, World Cup player of the tournament, a Ballon d’Or, and many more collective and individual accolades.

The World Cup is the consecration of this sport and a beautiful end to Messi’s long lasting European legacy. This eighth Ballon d’Or is the last he will win after not being included in the shortlist last year, and this season will be remembered as the pinnacle of his career. This is not to discredit Haaland’s amazing season, or Mbappe’s hard-fought international campaign, but unfortunately for the nominees, their fight came to an end when Montiel scored his historic goal.