It has been over a week since the Ballon d’Or 2021 winner was announced, but the world doesn’t seem to be accepting the fact that Lionel Messi won the prize over Robert Lewandowski.
The Argentine bagged the award for the seventh time in his career, on the back of a sensational league campaign with his club and also the Copa America triumph, which was Argentina’s first major trophy in 28 years.
As it turns out, the votes from South American journalists proved to be decisive in helping Messi win the trophy ahead of Lewandowski, who was the popular choice for winning the trophy.
The Pole scored 48 goals in 40 fixtures, adding to the 55 he scored in 47 games last season. His 41-goal tally in Bundesliga broke a long-standing record of most goals in a single league campaign, a record which was held by the late great Gerd Muller for over three decades. The Polish striker surpassed his record just a few weeks before his passing.
Despite playing a crucial part in helping Bayern win the treble, the Polish striker was left disappointed as the award was cancelled due to COVID-19 intervention. He was the hot favourite to go all the way last season and was pretty much in similar contention to do so this time, if not for the Copa America win in Messi’s kitty.
Messi’s club campaign was not the most memorable with Barcelona, as Ronald Koeman’s side finished way beyond in the league title chase but won the Copa Del Rey. He finished with the most goals in La Liga, scoring 30 times, and in total, he scored 38 times in 47 games for Barcelona last season.
If only the European journalists had voted, Lewandowski would’ve won the award having gained 209 votes, with the Argentine superstar getting only 161. In fact, Messi wasn’t even second in the European voting, with Chelsea star Jorginho gaining 166 votes. The Italian was an integral part of the Thomas Tuchel-led side that won the Champions League, and also the Italian team that won the Euro 2020.
Not just in South America, the 33-year-old PSG forward was leading the race from the votes that came from journalists in the Caribbean, Asia and Oceania. Among Caribbean journos, Messi had 107 votes whilst Lewandowski had just 63, and in Asia, it was 125:90 in favour of Messi again.
Another interesting vote came from a journalist in Bhutan, who did not place Lewandowski in the top five. In his voting list, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was leading the race, and Manchester City’s Phil Foden made the cut in the top five. Lewandowski eventually got 580 votes, and the prize went to Messi, who had 613 votes to his credit.
A lot of popular names in German football came out in full support for Lewandowski, who was awarded the Best Striker award, which was seen as a mere consolation for not getting the real prize. Former Argentine international Esteban Cambiasso had also spoken quite harshly against Messi’s win, as he remembered the Wesley Sneijder snub in 2010.
Thomas Muller recollected the time when Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer were pipped by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013 and 2014, where Ribery had played a crucial role in Bayern’s first treble win, whilst Neuer had performed exceedingly well in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph.
Hansi Flick, the German national men’s team manager who had overseen the incredible run of goals scored by Lewandowski, also sympathized with the Polish for not being awarded a prize which he richly deserved.