Lionel Messi has made history once again by winning his eighth Ballon d’Or in 2023, a feat that underscores his unwavering dominance in the world of soccer. The Ballon d’Or 2023 award underscores his incredible journey, making him the first Major League Soccer (M.L.S.) player to ever win this prestigious award. Messi was joined by Spain’s Aitana Bonmati, who graciously accepted the women’s award, demonstrating the vibrancy and talent present in today’s soccer landscape.
The Ballon d’Or is the epitome of footballing excellence and is awarded annually to the player who has demonstrated unparalleled skill and dedication over a 12-month period. At 36 years old, Messi once again proved that age is just a number by winning the award with his phenomenal performance. His journey with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, which began in July, has been nothing short of inspiring, but it was his remarkable role in leading Argentina to World Cup glory in December that truly sealed the deal.
Messi’s presence on the field turned the tide in Argentina’s quest to win their first World Cup since 1986. His contribution of seven goals, including two crucial goals in the final against France, not only led Argentina to victory, but also earned him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. That dazzling performance all but guaranteed him the Ballon d’Or, a full 11 months before he would lift the trophy. During this time, Messi made a bold move, leaving Paris St.-Germain for a lucrative contract with Miami, reportedly worth over $50 million per year.
Major League Soccer has dreamed of such moments since its inception in 1996. The league sought to establish itself in a country where American football, baseball and basketball reigned supreme. Fast forward to 2023, and the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, is now showcasing his talents on U.S. soil. Although his World Cup exploits were the primary catalyst for his Ballon d’Or win, his association with M.L.S. has given the league unprecedented international exposure. Sales of his pink Inter jersey have soared worldwide, putting M.L.S. on the map like never before.
Lionel Messi‘s journey with Barcelona has spanned more than two decades, and he has won the Ballon d’Or six times. Financial troubles at the club led to a tearful departure, followed by a fruitful but turbulent stint with P.S.G. that led to another Ballon d’Or but ended in a bitter farewell. Miami welcomed Messi, and he returned the favor by leading Inter to a League Cup victory, although the M.L.S. Cup playoffs remained elusive.
Living in Miami has brought happiness to Messi, despite the challenging climate, as he expressed in August. The build-up to the Ballon d’Or was filled with debate, particularly over whether Messi’s stellar month at the World Cup should overshadow Erling Haaland’s consistent excellence with Manchester City. In the end, Messi’s brilliance prevailed, with Haaland settling for second place.
This eighth Ballon d’Or victory not only cements Messi’s legacy, but also adds another chapter to his ongoing saga with Cristiano Ronaldo for the title of best player of their generation. Ronaldo, with five Ballon d’Or awards and a recent move to the Saudi league, is unlikely to add to his tally.
This year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris took into account performances from August 2022 to July 2023, with 100 soccer journalists from around the world casting their votes. On the women’s side, Aitana Bonmati’s triumph after leading Barcelona to Champions League glory and her pivotal role in Spain’s World Cup victory demonstrated her relentless pursuit of excellence. Her teammate Alexia Putellas, though sidelined by injury for most of the year, passed the mantle, marking the beginning of a new era in women’s soccer.
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