Yesterday, the final list of candidates for the Ballon d’Or was announced, which Messi will not choose for the first time in 17 years. Only Mbappé appears as a representative of PSG, ambitious to start being the protagonist of the gala in which the best footballer on the planet is known. In an interview with France Football, which presents the award, the Frenchman explains what this important date means to him.
Award of interest: “It is a big lie that the footballer is not interested in the Ballon d’Or. It is hypocritical to say that. We all think about that. We talk about a team, and a collective team, because somehow it challenges our ambition, but it’s honest to admit that we care. In the last two years I have become a more realistic candidate for the award. Before I was happy to be in the top ten. Now, on the other hand, I am among the four or five most regulars”.
Conversations in the locker room: “We don’t talk about the Ballon d’Or in January, but we do comment when the lists come in. Later, as the ceremony gets closer, it is clearly a topic of conversation in the group. We make our promises, we discuss our opinions. We have the right too. In any case, not all footballers take part in these discussions”.
His first nomination, in 2017: “In fact, it was a great honor. I was barely of legal age and I was already involved with those big names. It may seem trivial, but it was something important. A real step forward in my career. Somehow it was a message that said he was among the best. I was credited as a top footballer in the eyes of the world, and to be a member of that list at the age of 18 was significant.
Win a Ballon d’Or: “I always wanted to do it early, never limit my dreams. I want to win it and I don’t mind admitting it. I am sure that raising the first one is the most complicated. Once you’ve officially entered that select group, it’s easier to revalidate. Why? Simply because this recognition allows you to gain legitimacy in front of the general public”.
The media duel between Messi and Ronaldo: “It was the eternal war between the two generations. For ten years they shared the Ballon d’Or, and at each ceremony it was fun to guess, from their faces, who was going to take it home. Digging a little in my memory, I also have a distant memory of the one won by Ronaldinho, but nothing compares to the stage between Leo and Cristiano”.
Messi for reference: “On the morning of the last popular he was nervous because he was going to collect his seventh Ballon d’Or a few hours later. Maybe he was thinking about what he was going to say, how he was going to lift the trophy. I told him: it is impossible to be restless after being there six more times. I would have gone with a cigarette in my mouth! But that shows that he retains the soul of a child and is still excited to be the best. He hasn’t gotten tired.”
Those who have never received such recognition: “Xavi and Iniesta were as if they won it in 2010. I remember that podium and we all felt that it was a success for the three Barça players”.
Favorites this year: “I think Benzema, Mané and myself. Karim is 34 years old, he has just had the season of his life, he has won another Champions League in which he was decisive. If he doesn’t take it, I’ll stop believing in the Ballon d’Or forever.”
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