Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo, The Greatest Debate Ever, News, Messi Wins 8th Ballon d’Or, Erling Haaland Haaland, Jude Bellingham, Kylian Mbappe

For the past two decades, the race for the Ballon d’Or (football’s highest individual award) has been dominated by two names: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Messi lifted the trophy for a record eighth time at a ceremony in Paris on Tuesday morning, adding that the pair have won 13 trophies together.

Now that Ronaldo is 38 and Messi is 36, and neither is playing in Europe, this year will almost certainly be the last time these two players lift the most precious and prestigious individual trophy.

It’s the end of an era – but the future is bright.

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Building on his heroics at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, where Messi scored seven goals, including two in the final, to lead Argentina to the title, the diminutive genius now leads his archrivals by eight gold medals. Five trophies.

This could be the final blow in the debate over which player is the greatest of all time. This question is always subjective and capable of sparking debate between die-hard and casual fans, so there will never be a clear answer.

In terms of international trophies, both have continental titles (Messi’s is the Copa America, Ronaldo’s is the European Cup) – but Messi has the ultimate prize – the World Cup trophy. Of course, it’s still possible for both players to win another continental title (especially Messi at next year’s Copa America), or even the 2026 World Cup.

In terms of club trophies, Messi trails his rivals 5-4 in Champions League titles, but he has more league titles (12-7) and domestic cup titles (7-6).

Ronaldo has more career goals on both the domestic and international stages, while Messi has more assists in both categories.

But the biggest difference, at least statistically speaking, is that Messi has played more than 100 fewer games than his rival – no surprise, considering he’s two years younger than the Portuguese icon.

Messi has an excellent record when it comes to goals or assists per game or minute.

Goal contributions, trophies or records, both internationally and domestically, add to the debate about which player is superior, but they don’t really provide an answer.

What is indisputable, however, is that this rivalry is one of the greatest in football history, with their on-field rivalry and off-field records equally brilliant, pushing each other to greater heights.

Make eight titles. Top row (LR): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Bottom row (LR): 2015, 2019, 2021, 2023.
Make eight titles. Top row (LR): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Bottom row (LR): 2015, 2019, 2021, 2023.Source: AFP

The consistency between the two players is particularly remarkable.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been nominated for the Golden Globe Award for 19 consecutive years from 2004 to 2022, but missed the Golden Globe Award nomination this year. Messi has been nominated for the Golden Globe Award every year since 2005, except for 2022.

Ronaldo first won the award in 2008 and Messi in 2009. Since then, the award has only been awarded to other players twice: Croatia’s Luka Modric (2018) and France’s Karim Benzema (2022).

But the duo’s bid for the sport’s greatest individual award appears to be finally coming to an end, with 2023 likely to spell the end for both of them in their quest for the Ballon d’Or.

While the performance of these two football giants is still very high, neither one has reached the top echelon of European club football.

Ronaldo captained Saudi Professional League side Al Nasr after leaving Manchester United in January. The Portuguese superstar has scored 25 goals and provided 8 assists in 26 league games this year. He made 33 appearances in all competitions, scoring 28 goals and providing 10 assists.

Messi, meanwhile, has made a strong start since joining Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain in July, scoring 11 goals and assisting five in 14 appearances in all competitions.

Both players’ numbers are impressive – and it’s fair to say they’re as good as anyone in the world.

Messi spoke after accepting the award in Paris.Source: Getty Images

But it is unlikely that Ronaldo will be nominated again for a record 19 times, while Messi’s 15th nomination this year may well be his last.

This is because they compete at a lower level than Europe’s elite leagues. Even if they are nominated again, no player since Igor Belanov in 1986 has been awarded the title playing outside Europe’s five biggest leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) player with ball.

“I’m not thinking about the long-term future. I’m just enjoying every day now,” Messi said

Next year, a new player will go down in history as the winner of the 70th Ballon d’Or.

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heir to the throne

Messi may win the trophy again, but this will certainly be a close game.

Erling Haaland finished second after scoring an incredible goal for Manchester City.

The Norwegian forward scored 52 goals in 53 games for the club in the 2022/23 season, leading the team to win the treble for the first time and scoring in both the Premier League and Champions League.

He scored four goals in as many games for Norway but was unable to showcase his skills on the biggest stage as the team missed World Cup qualifying in Qatar.

Before the award was presented, Haaland’s Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola joked that Messi’s alien-like achievements meant he deserved a separate category at the Ballon d’Or.

“I always say the Ballon d’Or has to be divided into two parts: one for Messi and one for someone else,” Guardiola quipped.

“Of course, Messi, if you tell me Messi’s worst season, it was the best season for others. “Both men deserve it. “

Guardiola, who coached Messi at Barcelona, ​​added: “From an ego point of view, I would say I hope Erling (wins the trophy) because he helped us achieve what we achieved. “I’m very happy Happy, but I won’t tell you if Leo wins, it’s not fair. “

Manchester City’s Norwegian forward Erling Haaland gestures on stage while accepting the Gerd Muller Award for Best Forward during the 2023 French Football Ballon d’Or Awards.Source: AFP

Messi’s former PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe finished third after another superb season, winning another Ligue 1 title as well as the World Cup golden boot as France reached the final despite scoring a hat-trick, But he lost to Messi’s Argentina.

He has scored 54 competitive goals for club and country, just two fewer than Haaland, who today won the Gerd Müller Award.

Mbappe is 24 years old and Haaland is 23. The stage is set for the two to compete for the highest honors in the coming years – whether it is scoring or the Ballon d’Or.

Messi said in his acceptance speech: “Haaland and Mbappe will win the Ballon d’Or one day.

“Erling deserves it too, having won the Premier League and Champions League and being top scorer in all competitions.

“Today this award may also be yours. I believe that in the next few years, you will definitely win.”

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But Haaland recently told France Football – the Ballon d’Or was created in 1956 – that he didn’t see his relationship with Mbappe being anything like the Messi-Ronaldo showdowns of the past two decades.

“That’s what everyone thinks, but you have to emphasize how crazy what Messi and Cristiano did,” Haaland said. “You also have to remember that even though they’re getting older, they’re still doing it. They’re still great players.

“But I never talk about myself versus other players, that’s not the way I look at things. I focus on myself and try to get better every day and continue to enjoy what I do and be the best version of myself.”

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, ranked fourth, is another contender for the next few years.

But the biggest threat to Mbappe and Haaland’s chances of winning top-flight trophies in 2024 may be Jude Bellingham.

Messi and Mbappe attended the ceremony.Source: AFP

The 20-year-old England star played 42 games for Dortmund in his final season before moving to Real Madrid, scoring 14 goals and winning the Kopa Award for the best season for players under the age of 21. He also performed well for England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar.

But he looks set to reach even greater heights this season, scoring 13 goals in Madrid’s first 13 games, including a brace in El Clasico victory over Barcelona at the weekend.

Speaking to CBS Sports after the game, he revealed that trophies are his priority but he dreams of winning a Ballon d’Or in the future.

When told that Gary Lineker had predicted he would win the Ballon d’Or in 2028, Bellingham replied: “It’s not me, is it? Ah, well, he’s so good. For me , it’s all about the team awards, but it’s definitely one you think about as a kid.”

Bellingham won the Kopa Award for the best player under 21 years of age.Source: Getty Images

Bellingham is expected to be a key player for England at the upcoming European Championships in Germany, where Kylian Mbappe’s France have also qualified.

Haaland’s Norway have struggled in qualifying but could still make it through the play-offs.

Cristiano Ronaldo has also claimed he has “something to prove” and hopes to lead Portugal to the European Championships in June-July, for which the country has also qualified.

Meanwhile, Messi will compete in the Copa America in the United States.

It may be difficult for the Argentinian and Ronaldo to win another Ballon d’Or – or even be nominated – but they still shine at club level and on the international stage.

Their stranglehold on individual trophies may be coming to an end, but their golden era of greatness is not.

When you look at the next generation of stars, you see that the future is bright.

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