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Koeman: Messi deserves this year's Ballon d'Or

Barca boss Koeman backs Messi to win the Ballon d'Or after Copa America success

July 19, 2021 By Ali M.
The Argentine is the odds-on favorite to win France Football's coveted prize after ending his long wait for silverware with his national team.

Lionel Messi headed into the recent Copa America tournament with fear that the Argentina could go through another major international competition – possibly his second last – without winning silverware. However, things turned out quite different, with the Argentine icon leading his country to the title, their first since 1993 and his first senior trophy in an Albiceleste jersey.

As a result, the 34-year-old went from an outsider for this year's Ballon d'Or trophy to the odds-on favorite. A Copa del Rey title and a Copa America crown, alongside his stunning goalscoring form in 2021, have put La Pulga in the driving seat for a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

And according to Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, none is more deserving of the France Football prize this year than the South American talent. With Messi's Camp Nou contract having ended, the Argentine is technically no longer a Blaugrana player, but due to the allegiance with the club, it comes as no surprise to hear Koeman's thoughts on this matter. 

Regardless, he makes a strong point. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored 33 goals, assisted an additional 14, and claimed 26 Man of the Match awards in 38 apps this calendar year. On top of that, he finished as the top scorer and assist provider in both La Liga and the Copa America while being named the Player of the Tournament for the latter.

"He is vitally important," Koeman told Barcelona's official website. "For what he brings to the team, he's the captain and an example. His goalscoring has been brilliant despite a difficult start. He has shown time and again he is the best in the world. I know how much he wanted to win the Copa América and he has done it at last. Messi is the prime candidate for the Balon d'Or after a great season and for me he is the favorite."  

One thing working heavily in Messi's favor is the fortune of his closest rivals. Neymar and Mbappe both came up short in Ligue 1 and their respective continental tournaments (Copa America and Euro 2020). Leo's bitter rival Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, won the Golden Boot at Euro 2020 but failed to make it past the round of 16 after being beaten by Belgium in the first knockout-stage hurdle.

The Camp Nou legend's closest rival for this year's Ballon d'Or award is Jorginho after leading Italy and Chelsea to the Euro 2020 and UEFA Champions League titles, respectively. Whether the Azzurri midfielder can follow in the footsteps of Luka Modric and beat La Pulga to this honor, time will tell.

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