Now it is getting quite obvious that there are only three things one can be certain of in life – death, taxes and Lionel Messi winning the Ballon d’Or come high heaven or hell.
The 34-year-old diminutive Argentine wizard with his ‘other-worldly’ presence and magical skills on the pitch has gone through some rough patches over the past year, from Barcelona failing to perform at their usual level on the pitch and his having to leave the club due to their inability to fulfill the Financial Fair Play regulations and then struggling visibly to kick off with the usual, expected Messi flamboyance and style at new club Paris Saint-Germain.
However, and despite all the niggardly problems, the global superstar was still able to wriggle and zig-zag his way with mercurial ease on the pitch to notch his swan-song Copa del Rey triumph with the Blaugrana, then slalom his way to winning his first-ever international trophy with the Argentine national team as he led them to the Copa America 2021 success against arch-rivals Brazil in their own backyard.
Messi had on record a total goal-contribution tally of 58 for club and country during 2021, having scored 41 goals and chalked up 17 assists. So it came as more than just a surprise when he was announced as the winner of the Ballon d’Or 2021 in Paris on Monday night. It was a development that had been totally unexpected, to say the least, with even the most loyal and hardcore of Messi fans, the really honest ones at least, taken aback with surprise when the announcement was made.
There were definitely more than just a few who felt the likes of Jorginho or Robert Lewandowski deserved it more, that was not how the gavel descended, as Messi bagged his seventh Golden Orb, putting him two ahead of arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi’s unparalleled success and longevity – having bagged his first Ballon d’Or trophy in 2009 – are unprecedented. Yet, that being said, one person had predicted exactly this many years ago.
Legendary former Barcelona manager, Johan Cruyff, who himself had been the recipient of the prestigious honor three times during his playing career, had confidently claimed that Messi would go on to win seven Ballon d’Or times way back in 2012.
“Messi will probably retire with five, six, or seven Ballon D’ors. He’s in a league of his own,” the footballing legend had said.
With retirement still not anywhere in view on the horizon – and with form being infinitely renewable upon inspiration at the fingertips of invincibles and aliens like Messi – the god of football may still have it in him to make a push for Ballon d’Or #8 in the year to come.
After all, never say never.