And he’s done it again! He’s still 28, and has just added his 5th FIFA Ballon d’Or to his trophy cabinet!
After a very slow start, the 2014-15 season ended spectacularly for Lionel Messi and Barcelona. It was around this time last year when Messi was in Zurich watching Cristiano Ronaldo pick up his 3rd Ballon d’Or, with the Portuguese vowing to equal Messi (and probably hoping to overtake him).
Having won four in a row between 2009 and 2012, Ronaldo halted his run for two straight years as Messi and Barcelona were still trying to get back on their feet after Guardiola’s departure. Barcelona were not doing so well, Messi was not at his best, and Luis Enrique dropped him for the first game of the calendar year against Sociedad (a 1-0 defeat). But that same night in Zurich 12 months ago was probably the spark that changed everything.
Messi and Enrique got over their differences, the results started coming, and Messi ran riot against all opposition. Of course, they went on to win a remarkable treble, with Messi scoring a total of 58 goals in all competitions. He also became the backbone of probably the best ever attacking trio in history alongside Suarez and Neymar, who racked up 122 goals between them in all competitions.
Heading into the ceremony in Zurich, Messi was the clear favorite to win the annual prize ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. The player chosen to hand over the prize was Kaka, the last player other than Messi and Ronaldo to win it (that was 9 years ago!). He opened the envelope to annouce the winner, and indeed it was Lionel Messi.
Receiving the prize on stage (and much better dressed this year, in my opinion) Messi said "It’s a very special moment for me to be back here on the stage, winning again after being in the audience to see Ronaldo win for the last two years. It’s incredible that it’s my fifth. It’s much more than I ever dreamed of as a kid. I want to thank all of my team-mates and those who voted for me. This would not have been possible without the team. And I want to thank football in general for everything it has given me during my life, both the good things and the bad things."
Lionel Messi won an overwhelming 41.33% of the votes. Cristiano came in second with 27.76% and third was Neymar with 7.86%. Lewandowski and Suarez completed the top 5 with 4.17% and 3.38%, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, Messi had voted for 3 of his Barcelona team-mates: Luis Suarez, Neymar and Iniesta. His coach selections were Enrique, Sampaoli and Simeone. As for Neymar, his player votes were for Messi, Suarez and Rakitic. Ronaldo voted for Benzema, James Rodriguez and Bale. Albiceleste coach Tata Martino’s votes went for three of his players: Messi, Aguero and Mascherano.
Messi’s sensational goal against Atletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final was nominated for the Puskas Award (best goal of the year). However Wendell Lira’s acrobatic goal in the Brazilian second division won that prize.
So another year and another incredible milestone for this Argentine legend. With this 5th Ballon d’Or, i think it further kills the debate over whether his name should be mentioned in the same breath as Maradona and Pele, let alone whether he’s the best player ever (not that he needed this 5th prize anyway).
Again, Messi is still 28, and has many more years left playing at the highest level. How many more Ballon d’Or prizes will he win? Only time will tell. But for now, we must all enjoy watching him while he’s still around and lighting up the world of football in the name of Argentina.