Lionel Messi in a class of his own for Ballon d’Or wins, but Robert Lewandowski right to feel hard done by

Lionel Messi winning his seventh Ballon d’Or seems surprisingly simple. This is despite the fact that he is the first player in history to have won France football’s prestigious award so many times.

Yet that’s the way for Messi. The Argentine genius has kept the standards so high for too long that he is judged differently.

This is why fans lament when he ‘only’ assists instead of scoring. This is why many felt his achievements in Barcelona were as jaw-dropping as those he often fell short of.

Still, his teammates clearly believed he was a standout 2021 player. And even if you believe someone else – like Robert Lewandowski or Jorginho – deserved a shout out, it’s possible to believe how brilliant Messi was.

Because, his departure from Barcelona ended Ronald Koeman’s time at the club. And if he had not worked hard for Argentina, it is unlikely that they would have won the Copa America.

Many might say that his final season at Barcelona was underwhelming; On some level they must be right. Barcelona’s fleeting title challenge ended at the end of the season, even though the Copa del Rey victory helped.

Lionel Messi – A brilliant 2021 at individual and team level

But this was a Barcelona side clearly a different level from the standards expected. His money issues were well known and this often manifested on the field.

It didn’t help that in Koeman, Barca had a manager focused solely on results. Style of play is given equal importance at the Catalan club, and football under Koeman was often monotonous.

Yet, none of this mattered at the end of the year. Messi looked at his form and was completely in tears. It would not be wrong to say that he smoothed out many cracks in Barcelona.

Their fleeting title challenge would not have existed if not for Messi’s increase in production. Even their victory in the Copa del Rey final was largely attributed to Messi’s individual brilliance.

As far as winning the Copa America with Argentina goes, it finally felt like the albatross had been dropped from Lionel Messi’s neck. For years, the lack of international glory had bothered Messi; This even led to a temporary retirement.

But this summer the pieces finally fell into position. It wasn’t that Messi had a supporting cast that was more than up to his task; He too continued his domineering form from club football to the international stage.

His 4 goals and 5 assists meant that the Argentine scored all but one goal in the entire tournament with his right hand. It was this victory, perhaps more than any personal pride, that probably propelled him to garner the most votes.

But do those supporting Robert Lewandowski’s claim to the throne have a valid point? In short, yes.

Robert Lewandowski – unfortunately missed

Before the awards ceremony took place, news spread that France Football was introducing two new awards for the night. Awards for Best Striker of the Season and Team of the Season were being added.

The more cynical of fans believed it was to appease Lewandowski, as the Ballon d’Or vote went Lionel Messi’s way. And it’s hard to argue with that argument.

This is perhaps doubly infuriating as many expected the Polish striker to lift the trophy in 2020.

Lewandowski was in top goalscoring form as Bayern Munich steamrolled everyone – including Messi’s Barcelona – to win the Champions League.

And they also won a treble, claiming the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal before winning the Champions League. Given that Lewandowski was so important to this run, many saw him as a shoo-in for the trophy.

Of course, France Football decided not to hold the award ceremony and the trophy was not officially awarded to anyone. Based on that – as well as the fact that Pole continued his top goalscoring form – many felt he deserved it.

Messi also acknowledged that 2020 has been Lewandowski’s year in his acceptance speech. “I want to mention Robert, it has been a real honor to compete with him. I think France Football should give you your 2020 Ballon d’Or award, you deserve it.”

In fact, he is not the first person to miss out on the Ballon d’Or in recent years because of Messi or Ronaldo.

The likes of Franck Ribéry, Andrés Iniesta and Virgil van Dijk have also finished second to the pair in previous years when many thought they would win the coveted trophy.

Nevertheless, the lack of individual awards does not take away from a very successful period in the Polish hitman’s career.

Can Messi take things further?

As a matter of fact, Lionel Messi is in a league of his own as far as winning the Ballon d’Or is concerned. However, there is every possibility that he may add to that tally before calling it a career.

He has had a disappointing start to life at new club Paris Saint-Germain but has shown signs of finding form in recent matches. And of course, there’s always the Champions League trophy to be won.

The World Cup is also coming up next year, and Argentina are suddenly looking like dark horses. While in previous years they were seen as favorites despite the obvious holes in their squad, they are now more rounded.

A World Cup win for Messi would not only guarantee another Ballon d’Or, but also add another layer to the Messi-Ronaldo debate; As it stands, neither of them has won the World Cup.

But all this is for the future. For now, Messi can bask in the glory of a rollercoaster year that still earns him the ultimate accolades.

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