England’s sole Ballon d’Or voter has explained why he chose Lionel Messi over Erling Haaland during the recent awards ceremony. Messi secured his eighth Ballon d’Or title, surpassing Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe for the accolade, sparking debate about whether his performance in the 2022 World Cup alone justified the award.
Some speculated that Messi’s victory was driven by nostalgia, given that it might be his last opportunity to win the award. However, Henry Winter of The Times clarified that his vote was based on Messi’s remarkable achievements and not sentimental reasons.
In Winter’s words, “When evaluating the Ballon d’Or, success in the Champions League and international tournaments carries significant weight. Messi’s performance in the Qatar World Cup earned him six points from this voter. He displayed an unwavering determination to win the World Cup, a major missing piece in his illustrious career, which included four Champions League titles.”
Messi had long pursued a World Cup victory with his national team, finally achieving it by winning the Copa America in 2021 before the World Cup in 2022. Winter emphasized that Messi’s impact extended beyond statistics, noting his incredible bursts of speed and skillful plays, such as outmaneuvering Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol in the semi-finals.
By the end of the tournament, Messi ranked as the second-highest scorer, had the joint-most assists, and created the most scoring opportunities. Winter then revealed that he placed Haaland in second and Mbappe in third after selecting Messi as his top choice.
He praised Haaland for his goal-scoring prowess and numerous trophies with Manchester City, acknowledging his remarkable achievement with the football writers’ and PFA player of the year awards in England. While Haaland narrowly missed winning the Ballon d’Or, he did claim the Gerd Muller trophy for being the year’s top goal-scorer.
Although some, like former PSG player Jerome Rothen, expressed dissent regarding Messi’s triumph, Winter’s vote was based on Messi’s historic World Cup performance and his undeniable impact on the tournament.