Lionel Messi’s World Cup success with Argentina should be enough to win him the upcoming Ballon d’Or, says former England striker Jermain Defoe.
Messi finally achieved World Cup glory with La Albiceleste in Qatar last year as Argentina beat France on penalties in the final to win international football’s top prize for a third time and the first since 1986.
Messi won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, finishing with seven goals and three assists from seven appearances, playing every single minute of Argentina’s campaign to lead them to silverware.
Defoe believes Messi’s talismanic displays in Qatar make him the rightful winner of the upcoming Ballon d’Or, having already claimed the coveted award seven times before, two more than any other player has managed.
Speaking to Stats Perform at the Legends of Football event, in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Defoe said: “Messi won a World Cup, so it’s difficult to see past that.
“I think what he’s done for the game – him and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, and other players as well – but because he’s won a World Cup, and not only winning the World Cup but the way he performed in the tournament.
“Because the pressure was on, and it’s probably his last, so to do that, go out the way he has, in terms of World Cups – I think you just have to give it to him.”
Messi’s World Cup heroics cap glittering career
Many felt Messi needed to win the World Cup to confirm his place as the best football player of all time, and he responded with a magnificent campaign in Qatar before Argentina ultimately took the crown.
Messi scored twice in the final, finishing just one goal behind Golden Boot winner Kylian Mbappe, who netted a hat-trick on the losing side as his side finished runners-up.
His extraordinary tournament saw him score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final, the first player to ever achieve that feat at a World Cup, while his 26 appearances at the tournament is also a record, after he surpassed Lothar Matthaus.
Messi’s goals made him the first ever South American player to score in both the World Cup and Champions League final, and he joined his idol Diego Maradona as the only two players to score five or more goals and create 20 or more chances in a single World Cup tournament.
The now-Inter Miami forward became the first player to win the Golden Ball at two World Cup editions, while his 26 goals for Argentina at major tournaments is the most of any South American player in history.
Whether all that will be enough for Messi to win the Ballon d’Or will be revealed on October 30 at a ceremony in Paris, with the likes of Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior expected to challenge.
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