The glitz and the glamour of this evening’s Ballon d’Or ceremony was fitting for Lionel Messi. A player who’s dazzling career has thrown up countless moments of magic. He has now officially claimed his eighth Ballon d’Or title. That’s three more than any other player in history. Now, he is unequivocally regarded as the greatest footballer of all time.
France Football put on a show in the 67th annual ceremony of football’s most prestigious individual prize. Hosted by one of football’s most respected francophones, the former Ivory Coast Captain and Chelsea superstar Didier Drogba sparkled on the night.
Lionel Messi came in at second place in Forbes 2023 List of the World’s Highest Paid Athletes but he has claimed top spot as the best footballer on the planet. Messi was accompanied by family at the event, including his three sons who were seen beaming with pride at their fathers achievement.
Messi received the Ballon d’Or for his heroics at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Argentina are a strong side but they weren’t fancied as favourites against the likes of France or Brazil leading up to the tournament. Lionel Messi rolled back the years and performed at the peak of his powers, even if he hasn’t got quite the same turn of pace that he had a few years ago.
Messi’s individual brilliance was supported by his teammates’ unrivalled determination and team spirit in what proved the perfect concoction for World Cup success. The likes of Julián Álvarez and Emiliano Martínez showed up with some big performances but Lionel Messi was the diamond throughout; the man to make things happen when they looked bleak, and ultimately the main reason why Argentina won their first World Cup since 1986.
It was also fitting that Messi received his award on the birthday of Argentina’s hero of 1986: Diego Maradona.
Critics might suggest Messi is only winning his eighth Ballon d’Or because of his World Cup performance, and that one month of football shouldn’t determine an annual prize. Yet the reality is that every year these prizes are affected by who picks up the most important medals. Any professional footballer would swap a successful season for Messi’s messianic World Cup display. He stepped up when it mattered most and also scored 26 goals in 20 Argentina games across 2022 and 2023.
Messi didn’t have a bad year at club level either. In fact last season he played 39 games in Ligue 1 and the Champions League for Paris Saint-Germain. Scoring 20 and assisting 20 in those games as PSG romped their way to another league title.
Since his summer move to Miami, Messi has provided 16 goal contributions from 14 games. Meanwhile he has been the star of the show for Argentina in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying. There is a Copa America coming up in the summer of 2024 and there is no doubt Messi will have his eyes on another gold medal at that tournament.
Monday night felt like Messi’s night. The cherry on top of a career that still has some big moments to come. The Argentine received the praise and accolades that he deserved even before his World Cup win brought him complete immortality in his home nation.
Even if Messi were to carry Argentina to another title it is unlikely he will win another Ballon d’Or. Now it is time for the likes of Mbappe, Haaland and Bellingham to stand up and fight for Paris’ glittering prize. The only thing we are certain of is that it will be almost impossible for another footballer to match Lionel Messi’s tally of eight titles.
By Joseph O’Sullivan