Who deserved to win the Ballon d’Or – Lionel Messi or Erling Haaland?

Barcelona legend Lionel Messi won a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or at last night’s ceremony in Paris. The current Inter Miami player finished ahead of Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, who will likely feel aggrieved at missing out on the award, even if he did get the Gerd Muller Trophy, given to the best goalscorer. It all feels very similar to 2021, in which Messi earned his seventh Ballon d’Or ahead of Robert Lewandowski, who had that season beat Gerd Muller’s record of 42 goals in a single season, a record which had stood for 49 years. That season, many believed that Lewandowski should have won the award, but the Polish striker was pipped to it by Messi. 

Nobody can say that Messi is wholly undeserving of the award. The Argentinian finally won the long-elusive World Cup after beating France in a penalty shoot-out. In that tournament, Messi won the Golden Ball, given to the best player of the tournament, after finishing the tournament with seven goals and three assists. While it was undeniably an incredible achievement for a player who seemed destined never to get his hands on the biggest trophy of them all, does it merit a Ballon d’Or all by itself?

World Cup showing

Despite Messi’s flourishing start to life in the US with Inter Miami and his final season at PSG was better than his previous, bagging 16 goals and 16 assists in Ligue 1, it can’t be compared to the magnificence of Haaland in the Premier League, and it is ultimately the World Cup performance that has won him the trophy.  

The Norwegian striker, of course, pales in comparison when looking at International pedigree, as is to be expected, but the numbers he has put up for his club since signing for Manchester City in the summer of 2022 astounds. Haaland netted 52 goals in 53 games, scoring 36 league goals, beating Alan Shearer’s 1994/95 record of 34 goals in a season. Haaland was far and away the top goalscorer, making Harry Kane’s 30 goals in the season, an incredible haul in itself, look ordinary. His goals are ultimately what allowed City to win their first Champions League trophy and complete the treble, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup. 

Those who wish to detract from this feat point to the sheer class in that City side and the number of chances they create, especially when Kevin De Bruyne is in the team. However, nobody previously, even the great Sergio Aguero, has been able to match Haaland’s goalscoring abilities and his know-how to always be in the right place at the right time. 

It would have been difficult for either player to lose out on the award. Both have had incredible seasons for different reasons. However, Haaland’s numbers in his first season at his new club, in what is deemed to be the hardest league in the world and in the Champions League, should have won him this year’s Ballon d’Or. 

GSFN | Finn Entwistle

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