Lionel Messi’s notable Ballon d’Or demeanour as he puts Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry to bed

At his post-Ballon d’Or press conference, a meaningful expression spread across Lionel Messi’s face after he was crowned the seven-time winner of the award for the best player in world football.

After a year in which, in addition to his career successes, he finally removed the reservation, the striker’s victory on Monday in Paris extended his lead over long-term rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and brought clear daylight between the two.

At 34 or 36 years of age there is not really time on both sides to collect even more. Messi, who looks relaxed and has a meaningful grin on his face, knows that too.

Ronaldo’s absence from the ceremony coincided with the course of the evening in many ways.

The Portuguese superstar never actually competed for the grand prize, despite beating Ali Daei’s record for international goals in 2021 and eventually finishing sixth in the vote – the first time he has stepped off the podium in 15 years.

The following year (2007), both Messi and Ronaldo finished in the top three for the first time – lost to Brazilian playmaker Kaka – before their enchantment of the competition has seen only one more winner since then.

Their fierce battle has been at the forefront of football for more than a decade, spanning seasons, breaking records and defining modern football as we know it.

But is this the beginning of the end of the dominance and rivalry between the two greatest footballers of all time?

Lionel Messi won his seventh Ballon d’Or award on Monday, two ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo


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Whether it is or not remains to be seen. But in the case of Messi, he was pretty happy to know that his opponent has a lot to do to get back on a level.

“I don’t know if the record can be beaten, I just have to accept it, but I’m not sure if it can be beaten,” he said afterwards. “Seven is really impressive.”

Certainly Ronaldo has a lot to do and the general consensus is that Messi’s record could be difficult to match, even for all of his super talent.

When asked if Ronaldo could catch Messi now, Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said Mirror football: “I do not think so. Nobody can catch Messi now.

“This is unique for many reasons. Not even [Diego] Maradona or Pele had Messi’s persistence.

“Sometimes we say very good players, I wish they were recognized, but in this case, while he’s with us, there isn’t a single award that he doesn’t deserve. Not even 2010 where Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta didn’t understand.

“Now he’s on another planet. It was already. And I don’t think anyone can catch him now. “

That realization probably crossed his mind to Robert Lewandowski Tuesday morning after the Polish striker missed the award again despite an amazing year in which he scored by far more goals than any other player.

However, Messi was never withheld that accolade after leading Argentina to the Copa America that summer.

He admitted that the triumph gave him “peace of mind”, probably all too aware that if Ronaldo hadn’t received an international award, it would have allowed Ronaldo to stay ahead of Portugal’s 2016 success.

And now, after years of clashing, there finally seems to be some breathing space between them and an end to the ever-raging debate in sight.

“I think if you ask Cristiano he’ll say it’s not over yet,” said Joy News journalist Gary Al Smith. “But I think it’s over. You can tell from Messi’s body language that he knows it.

“It will take something crazy before Cristiano [catch him]. He’s done it before, where he had to go back twice, but I think it’s going to take something extraordinary, otherworldly for Ronaldo to get to seven if Messi isn’t done because remember that Cristiano is older than Leo and I believe not that Leo would want that before Cristiano retires.

“I think he’ll be waiting about the Ballon d’Or so I think it’s over.”



Javier Garcia / REX / Shutterstock)

This feeling was also shared at the Theater du Chatelet, where those present knew that they had experienced something special and potentially conclusive.

“This year we have already seen that the competition between Messi and Ronaldo is over. It doesn’t work anymore ”, commented Sebastien Staszewski from the Polish magazine Interia. “I think 2021 will be the end of the competition between these two great players for the next few years. It won’t return. “

And maybe not just for the elder statesman of the two.

“Ronaldo is getting older,” he added. “We can’t change that. And I think that’s a problem with Lionel Messi too, as the second half of the year wasn’t that great for him.

“The new waves of players are coming and the things we’ve been watching for the past 10+ years, these competitions are over.”

Is there a way back for Ronaldo at all? His own career seemed to have received a tremendous revival with his return to Old Trafford that summer.

“He’s the best striker in the history of the game,” said Balague. “But now it is very clear that you have to influence the team and prepare and change the team in order to benefit them. That was not the case before.

“He finished the very good work of a very good team, now you have to change things around him and it’s not about playing every single game now. I’m not sure he’ll be happy to accept that.

“But it’s peaked, hasn’t it? He still scores a lot of goals, but the Ballon d’Or winner shouldn’t just be the guy who scores a lot, he should be the much more philosophical side when he won it. “

For Messi, who has always had a widely recognized reputation for being more of a team player, that was never a problem. And considering that he is two years younger than Ronaldo and plays in a top team that is fighting for the game’s great honors, surely he has a better chance of repeating his success?

“This is going to be tough,” remarked Smith. “Because people like Lewandowksi and [Mohamed] Salah just gets better.

“Messi’s team is not helping him at the moment. It will take a tactical shift for it to play on its image.

“With Ronaldo and Messi, you never know. These guys are strangers and that’s why they’re where they are. But I think this will be her last. For Messi, seven, it’s done. And Cristiano, five, is ready too. “



YOAN VALAT / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)

There are common themes that run through the debate, however, and one last chance to salvation for Portugal’s talisman.

“Ronaldo has to go to the World Cup,” said France Football’s Olivier Bossard. “If he doesn’t leave, he has no chance of winning the next Ballon d’Or.”

Portugal have yet to secure a place in the finals and must assert themselves in a tough play-off group to be in next year’s tournament in Qatar.

That will put a heavy strain on the voting for the Ballon d’Or 2022, as the organizers already intend to postpone the award until after the end of the World Cup.

It goes without saying that Ronaldo’s hopes of victory would also depend heavily on Portugal’s performance in this tournament – should they make it at all.

But the same could be said for Messi.

When asked if the Paris Saint-Germain star could contribute to his Golden Ball, Balague replied: “It depends on the World Cup.

“If PSG doesn’t win everything, none of PSG will ever win the Ballon d’Or. There will be many excuses not to give them.

“If you win the Champions League you have to consider one of their players as a candidate, but at the moment they haven’t hit all the cylinders.

“But he could do it with the national team. And Qatar, it will probably be his last World Cup.

“I think Messi will be in the top 3 next season, I have no doubt about that. PSG will have adapted to him. Argentina comes together. So that he could win it again. “

The Ballon d’Or winner’s chair could have a different name in 2022


AFP via Getty Images)

There’s an all-star queue secured around the block for when the award is to be claimed by anyone other than one of the usual suspects.

Lewandowski remains confident of finally getting his fair wage, while Salah would be hard to beat if his current form continues – especially if Egypt can win at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Then there are people like Neymar who still has ambitions to achieve his dream but his chances seem to be over.

Erling Haaland has scored incredibly quickly too, and Barcelona aspiring star Pedri is well placed to build on his Kopa 2021 young player of the year trophy.

But at the Ballon d’Or, ask someone they expect to take over the coat of Messi and Ronaldo and only one name will roll their lips first.

“[Kylian] Mbappe in the right environment could just be next, ”suggested Balague. “I don’t think Neymar is or will be at this level. Mbappe could be the right one. “

Staszewski agreed, stating: “Mbappe seems to be the new Ronaldo. His DNA is amazing. I can’t remember a player like him.

“Messi was pure talent. Ronaldo was hard work. He combines both. He’s a guy who can win the Golden Ball for the next 10 years. “

And it could come sooner rather than later.

Kylian Mbappe is widely considered to be the best place to take on Messi’s and Ronaldo’s coat


AFP via Getty Images)

“Maybe Mbappe has a chance to win Ballon d’Or in the next few years,” said FF’s Thym Pinon. “If France wins the World Cup, they have a chance.”

Suggestions that Mbappe could play one side of football’s new rivalry with Haaland were also considered, although both players linked with a Real Madrid transfer could put an end to that theory as early as next summer.

Furthermore, the chances that we will see another golden era of world football as we did are perhaps too much to ask.

“It was a great time for everyone,” concluded Balague. “Now we are happy to welcome Mbappe with open arms [to La Liga] and who knows maybe even Haaland.

“Pedri wins the Kopa trophy so it’s a different era, but we’ll never have anything like that.” [Messi vs Ronaldo] again i think.

“That doesn’t have to happen in 100 years of football [again] but I’m fascinated by how they made each other better. How Messi wasn’t obsessed with individual trophies but was obsessed with giving Cristiano a chance.

“So many people have fallen in love with her and her rivalry, we have to thank them for that.”

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