Lionel Messi Wins Seventh Ballon d'Or, Alexia Putellas Wins Her First
By: Aviral Sharma
Argentine superstar Lionel Messi created history when he won a seventh men’s Ballon d’Or, making him the most decorated footballer in the sport’s history. At the same time, Spain’s Alexia Putellas, the captain of Messi’s former club Barcelona, brought the women’s award to the Camp Nou for the first time.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the Ballon d’Or was called off. It marked its comeback this year in French football’s home turf Paris, with just a week’s worth of notice, surprising football lovers across the globe.
In 2020, it seemed as if Bayern Munich’s goal-scoring machine Robert Lewandowski was all set to get his hands on his maiden Ballon d’Or. But, unfortunately, last year’s scrapped event slowed his momentum coming into this year. However, his performance in the latter half of the 2020-21 season set him up to redeem his lost opportunity this year. But it just wasn’t meant to be as Messi, once again, took the gold away from the Polish striker.
According to The Athletic’s interviews with various Ballon d’Or voters, winning the Copa America 2021 is what did it for Messi. After continuous failures over the years on the international stage: losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany and reaching three Copa America finals but coming out as a champion had mentally triggered the legend. This year, he finally captured Copa America by beating arch-rivals Brazil at home. Messi was the Man of the Tournament. He scored four goals.
Across the international stage, Messi scored 41 goals and made 17 assists, enough for him to take home a seventh Ballon d’Or and claim his rightful spot as the modern-day greatest in the game.
Even with Lionel Messi’s name on every tongue in Paris, he could not steal Alexia Putellas’ thunder, as she became the first Spanish player to win the Ballon d’Or since 1960. She was adjudged the best women’s player globally as she received the first Ballon d’Or Feminin. Putellas, an attacking midfielder and the captain of Barcelona FC, scored 26 goals in the last season. She managed to carry this form over to the current season, adding another 14 goals to her tally in just 13 games.
Putellas has become the third woman to win the Ballon d’Or since the award was introduced three years ago. Previously, Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg was voted the first winner in 2018, followed by American winger and LGBTQIA+ activist Megan Rapinoe in 2019.
While Putellas’ victory was universally hailed as a deserving decision, Messi’s victory was seen as a sign of overt favouritism. Football pundits felt that Lewandowski, who won Striker of the Year, deserved the Ballon d’Or. The Sky Sports editorial team has even gone so far as to say that Messi’s transfer to French league winners Paris Saint Germain prompted the decision.
The Ballon d’Or is presented by the French magazine France Football. Since its inception in 1956, it has been one of the most prestigious individual awards for footballers. Between 2010 and 2015, an agreement was made with FIFA, and the award was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year and known as the FIFA Ballon d'Or. However, the partnership ended in 2016, and the award reverted to the Ballon d'Or, while FIFA also reverted to its separate annual award.
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