A Display of Controversy as Messi Collects His Seventh Ballon D’or

Andrew Kim ‘23

After Messi’s surprise departure from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain this past summer, European headlines were recently stirred again as Lionel Messi collected his Seventh Ballon D’or on November 29. The Ballon D’or is the highest individual award for soccer. After a list of the top 30 players is finalized by France Football, journalists choose their top five, after which the points allocated by their votes will determine the order of the rankings [1]. Recipients of this award are considered the best player of the year. During a monumental year that saw the Argentinian win his first career international trophy, it seemed fit for him to receive the prestigious honor [2]. 

However, a storm of controversy has arisen after Messi’s accolade was announced. Much of the general public pointed to the fan-favorite, Robert Lewandowski, who finished in second behind Lionel. Many raged that Lewandowski had essentially been robbed of the award for the second year in a row. In 2020, the Ballon D’or was not held due to COVID-19 related reasons. That same year, Lewandowski netted an impressive 55 goals for club and country in addition to winning the treble with Bayern Munich causing the majority to believe that Lewandowski was to be crowned. Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Ballon D’or, fans of the player were hopeful ahead of the 2021 awards [4]. In 2021, it looked favorable for Lewandowski to win it, as Lewandowski scored 45 in 35 matches, and Messi counted 31 in 36 during the time frame of 2021 being considered [5]. Ultimately, Messi was the individual to go up on stage in November. Upon his acceptance of his record-breaking 7th award, he nodded to Lewandowski’s feats by conceding that Lewandowski deserved the Ballon D’or last year.

Fans are still dissatisfied with Messi’s seemingly meaningless gesture. For Lewandowski’s commendable, consistent performance over the last two years, fans are still pushing their outrage on social media sites. One of the criticisms made was the declining neutrality of the journalists who voted. Reasoning that Lewandowski had done everything which qualified him as the perfect winner of the Ballon D’or, they found fault with the journalists’ judgment of Lewandowski’s performance for his Polish national team. Since the Polish team wouldn’t compare to the likes of the Argentinian team, people concluded that the ranking was unfair [6]. Despite the harsh outcry from the public, France Football has remained certain of their position to crown Messi. However, the possibility of France Football awarding Lewandowski with the 2020 Ballon D’or has been proposed [6]. Editor in chief of France Football, Pascal Ferré, has acknowledged the Polish star’s standout 2020 performance and is considering honoring him. Unfortunately, there is little chance of this concept coming to fruition since the contest is based on a voting system; this decision would nullify the respect that comes with the award. Although the majority of fans believe it is Lewandowski’s rightful silverware, Ferré could not be sure that Lewandowski would have won it in 2020 if the contest was held then. 


[1] https://www.sportingnews.com/au/football/news/ballon-dor-voting-how-are-the-best-players-in-the-world-decided/2dze27t0jzbe1i0erlrxioup2

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/29/sports/soccer/messi-ballon-dor-lewandowski.html

[3] https://au.sports.yahoo.com/football-lionel-messi-wins-seventh-ballon-dor-lewandowski-robbery-outrage-224747611.html

[4] https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/messi-lewandowski-2020-ballon-dor-25588231

[5] https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-marcottis-musings/story/4535190/why-messis-ballon-dor-win-shouldnt-make-you-angry  

[6] https://www.sportskeeda.com/football/why-robert-lewandowski-s-ballon-d-or-snub-daylight-robbery