Messi Eyes an Eighth Ballon d’Or With Bonmati Set to Win Women’s Award


Lionel Messi is the frontrunner to secure an eighth Ballon d’Or of his extraordinary career, with the awards ceremony for the world’s best football player set to take place in Paris on Monday.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Aitana Bonmati, a World Cup-winning star, is poised to win the women’s award.

For the past 15 years, the prestigious Ballon d’Or award has been primarily dominated by Messi and his longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo, with the two winning it a combined 12 times.

Over the years, only two other players, Luka Modric in 2018 and Karim Benzema in the previous year, have secured the Ballon d’Or, breaking the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.

Messi is likely to benefit from a recent change in the award’s criteria, which now focuses on a player’s performance over the last season rather than the calendar year.

In the previous season, Messi led Argentina to victory in the World Cup in Qatar, where he scored seven times and was named the tournament’s best player. This is expected to give him an edge over other nominees.

Notably, seven players from Manchester City, who won the English Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League, are among the 30 nominees.

The top candidate among them is Erling Haaland, who scored 52 goals in 53 games.

“I always said that the Ballon d’Or should be in two sections, one for Messi, and after that look for the other one,” Guardiola said recently.

“Haaland should win. We won the treble and he scored, I don’t know, 50 million goals.

“But of course if you tell me the worst season of Messi, it would be the best season for the rest of the players. 

“Both deserve it, so what can I say? Selfishly I would say I want it to be Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved. I would love it.”


– The case for Mbappe? –

Messi’s season at club level with Paris Saint-Germain was underwhelming, even if he won Ligue 1 alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

He scored 21 goals for the French club, but was clearly never happy in Paris and was even jeered by his own supporters at times, before moving to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer earlier this year.

There is at least a case to say this should be Mbappe’s time.

He was clearly PSG’s most important player last season, scoring 41 goals, and was also the World Cup’s top scorer with eight goals after his incredible hat-trick in that epic final.

The French lobby is strong in favour of Mbappe, 24, winning a prize organised in France and handed over in Paris.

As an example, the manager of leading French club Lens, Franck Haise, last week did not hesitate when asked who he would vote for.

“Another Frenchman, Kylian Mbappe,” he said.

“Because he had such a complete season and he is an exceptional player. Even if I think it will be won by a player who won the World Cup, which I would not find jarring.”

Alas, the prize is voted for by a jury of one journalist per country from the top 100 nations in FIFA’s ranking.

The destination of the women’s prize seems even more clear cut.

The list of nominees features four members of the Spain team that lifted the Women’s World Cup in Sydney in August despite off-field turbulence including protests against the Spanish football federation and coach Jorge Vilda.

Alba Redondo, Salma Paralluelo and full-back Olga Carmona, who scored the winner in the final, are all shortlisted, but Bonmati appears untouchable.

The 25-year-old Barcelona midfielder lit up the tournament with her talent having already starred for her club as they won the Champions League.

So impressive has she been that Guardiola has likened her to another Barcelona great, Andres Iniesta.

Ordinarily, the likes of World Cup top scorer Hinata Miyazawa of Japan, or Australia’s Sam Kerr, would be credible contenders, but Bonmati’s success appears nailed on.