December 10, 2021 | SPORTS | By Samwel Makyao | Illustration by Sierra Romero

Last Monday, the shimmering brilliance that lit Barcelona Football Club for 21 years, Lionel Messi, won his record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or. The Argentinian national and Paris Saint-German (PSG) forward goes down in the annals of greatness, surpassing his great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five Ballon d’Ors. This comes after the 2020 edition of the award was controversially canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ballon d’Or is the highest individual honor in soccer. It is given to both male and female players who have performed the best over the previous year.

It is awarded based on votes cast by 180 soccer journalists who make their top-five selections following three qualifications: individual and collective performances during the year, player class (talent and fair play), and overall judgment of the player’s career.

The top-ranking player from each journalist’s selection will receive six points, the second player earning four points, then three, two, and one going down from the rest of their top-five picks. After each journalist has selected their top-five players for the award, the points are added, and the player with the most points will be crowned the winner.

Messi, aged 34, finished first with 613 points, ahead of Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, who came in second place with 580 points. Jorginho, Italy and Chelsea midfielder, came third with 460 points. Cristiano Ronaldo had 178 points and came sixth, his first finish outside of the top three since 2010.

Messi expressed deep gratitude in his acceptance speech. “It’s incredible to be here again. Two years ago, I thought it was my last year. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and now I am here again, ” he said. “A large part of this trophy is because of winning the Copa America 2021 with Argentina. I want to share this award with my teammates.”

Some experts and soccer legends argued Lewandowski deserved the honor this year. He was the award’s top contender.

Statistically, in the voting period (Jan. 1 to Oct. 24), Lewandowski netted 64 goals and 10 assists in 54 games. Meanwhile, Messi had 41 goals and 11 assists in 57 games. Additionally, Messi won the Copa Del Rey tournament; he was the top scorer of the Spanish Soccer League (La Liga) with 30 goals, top scorer of the Copa America 2021 with four goals, and Copa America’s Best Player.

On the other hand, Lewandowski won the European Golden Shoe award, the German Super Cup Winner, German Professional Soccer League (Bundesliga) player of the season, winner, and its top scorer with 41 goals.

Zoraiz Zafar ’25 commented on whether Messi deserved to win the award this year.  

“This decision is a prime example of how the Ballon d’Or has transformed into a rating circus. For too long, the big boys of soccer have degraded this great and brave game, with the Ballon d’Or serving as one of their most powerful tools,” said Zafar.

When asked about who would have deserved to win the Ballon d’Or this year, Zoraiz said, “Someone who fared well on the field, not among advertisers, and that is Robert Lewandowski.”

Zafar shares similar thoughts with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a Swedish National and A.C. Milan striker. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily newspaper, Ibrahimovic explained his thoughts. “Lionel Messi lives for soccer. But Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d’Or this year,” he said.

Robert Lewandowski’s Bayern Munich teammates were also shocked that he did not win the golden ball this year.

Bayern Munich striker, Thomas Muller, released a statement to share his thoughts. “Although I’ve been in the business for a bit longer, I was not really surprised by the outcome,” said Muller. “So congratulations to Lionel on winning the Ballon d’Or, even if I think that Robert Lewandowski would have deserved more this time.”

Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich left-back and forward, shared his views via his Instagram live. “To me, it doesn’t make sense. If I start talking about it, a lot of people’s feelings are going to get hurt,” Davies said.

The awarding ceremony took place at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. It also saw the midfielder of Barcelona’s women’s team and UEFA Women’s Player of the year 2021, Alexia Putellas, win the Female Ballon d’Or 2021, adding it to her trophy cabinet. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-German goalkeeper, won the Yashin Trophy. Chelsea Football Club was crowned Club of the Year.

Robert Lewandowski was honored with the first-ever Striker of the Year award and congratulated Messi and Putellas for winning the Ballon d’Ors this year.

Should Lewandowski continue at his current pace, he would likely win the 2022 Ballon d’Or for the first time in his already consummate soccer career.  

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