Lionel Messi discusses Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, a ninth Ballon d’Or and future winners of the award
Who does the Inter Miami star think will win next year? Erling Haaland? Kylian Mbappé? Vinícius? Or perhaps he himself…?
Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi won the 2023 Ballon d’Or at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on Monday, the eighth time he has been named the best player in world soccer during the previous 12 months or so. The Argentina captain has now won the award three times more than his closest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, and it is difficult to imagine any of the “new” generation, including Kylian Mbappé or Erling Haaland, matching the 36-year-old’s record tally.
French newspaper L’Équipe, part of the same media group as Ballon d’Or organisers France Football, have released a preview of an interview they have done with Messi that will be published in full on Saturday. In it, the former Barcelona superstar discusses whether he thinks he could win the award again in the future, comments on his long-standing rivalry with Ronaldo and gives his view on which players will dominate world soccer in the years to come.
Mentality and desire key to Messi’s success
His record number of Ballon d’Or wins: “I think it’s partly down to my mentality, and my desire to want to improve every single day and to always try to achieve more. I always said that I was a person who liked winning, I didn’t like losing, I always tried to compete and give my all, in addition to preparing well. I enjoy soccer, it’s what I like and it’s what I dreamed about since I was little. I gave everything to have the career I had.”
Winning his first Ballon d’Or: “Yes, it was very special. You always get a special kind of joy from winning an award for the first time. I remember the first one, which was different from everything else because it was not at a gala like the one they have now, but on a television program. I went to Paris with my brothers and it was on some kind of program. There weren’t as many players as there were later.”
What did Messi say about his rivalry with Ronaldo?
His rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo: “It was only a so-called “battle”. In a sporting sense, it was really good, we fed off each other because we are very competitive. He always wanted to beat everyone and win everything. It was a very nice period for us and for people who like soccer in general. I think what we did for so long was very admirable. The easy thing is to get there, but the difficult thing is to stay. We stayed at the top for practically 10-15 years. That was very difficult to sustain. It was incredible and I have fond memories, also for everyone who enjoys soccer.”
Haaland, Mbappé or Messi to win 2024 Ballon d’Or?
His last Ballon d’Or?: “The truth is that I stopped thinking about the Ballon d’Or a long time ago. I said before that it was never a priority for me, and it’s much less of one now after having achieved everything in my career and at this stage of my life. I think this will be my last Ballon d’Or and I am happy to have achieved everything I achieved and to be the player who has eight Ballon d’Ors. I am happy.”
Future Ballon d’Or winners: “I think we’ve seen for years there are several players who could win it. Like Haaland, Mbappé and Vinicius. There are many young players who are going to contend for the next Ballon d’Or. Lamine Yamal, who is very young and has already shown he is an important player for Barcelona, will probably fight for it soon. And more players will enter the conversation. There are always good players, I think the next little while is going to be one to look forward to watching.”