A wonderfully wholesome behind-the-scenes clip of the 2021 Ballon d’Or ceremony showed Lionel Messi’s oldest son Thiago losing count of his father’s trophy haul.
“Why seven, dad?” he asks. “Don’t you have six? Back at home, there’s six.” Messi replies with a smile: “I now have seven.” “But when did you win it?” Thiago fires back, frantically flicking his gaze across the marble table cluttered with golden orbs. “Today,” Messi says. “So, that means you have eight,” a confused Thiago concludes, counting the prize he knew his dad would win that evening. “No,” Messi sighs.
That fog of uncertainty is clouding the wider footballing public once more ahead of the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony, with rumours of Messi’s capture of an eighth Ballon d’Or rife.
To avoid the doubt that Thiago Messi had while trying to keep up with his dad’s honours, here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Ballon d’Or.
The first whispers that Messi had been confirmed as this year’s Ballon d’Or winner emerged on 13 October when Alessandro Dossetti, billed as a close family friend, posted on Instagram: “It’s official. Lionel Messi was told today that he is the winner of Ballon d’Or 2023.”
The Barcelona-based publication SPORT stoked the flames of the rumours by publishing a report on 17 October claiming that Messi had won the men’s award and Barcelona femeni midfielder Aitana Bonmati would lift the women’s counterpart. Intriguingly, the article has since been removed from the newspaper’s official website.
France Football, the publication that has handed out the prestigious award for the best player each year since 1956 (aside from 2020 which was lost to coronavirus), will not announce the winner until the official ceremony.
Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who never won the award but did finish fourth (one place behind Messi) in 2007, will host the gala event on Monday 30 October in Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet.
Messi spent two underwhelming years in the French capital with Paris Saint-Germain, collecting a pair of Ligue 1 titles but crucially missing out on the Champions League. Despite averaging a goal or assist every 89 minutes across his final campaign in France, Messi was regularly booed by the club’s own fanbase in the final bleak weeks before he moved to Inter Miami.
The end of October may provide Messi with happier memories of Paris.
A rumour cannot spread so feverishly without a public willing to believe it. Whether or not Messi already knows the result of this year’s Ballon d’Or voting, he and every other football fan is well aware of his status as the clear favourite.
Unlike recent editions, this year’s Ballon d’Or covers the 2022/23 season, rather than a calendar year – which explains why the award is dished out before Halloween.
While Messi’s club form for PSG last term wasn’t exactly electrifying – particularly in the second half of the campaign – he achieved the small matter of winning the World Cup last winter. Scoring in all but one of Argentina’s matches, including twice in the final, Messi had fans, players and pundits queuing up to proclaim him as the greatest of all time.
In most years, racking up more than half a century of goals while winning the European Treble would be enough to wrap two hands around the Ballon d’Or. Erling Haaland may not possess the all-round artistry of Messi, but the prolific Norwegian embraced his lack of subtlety with a brutally efficient individual and collective campaign.
City’s treble winners contribute seven of the 30 names on the shortlist, comfortably the most of any club. Haaland’s provider-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri, the ballast in City’s mesmeric midfield who scored the only goal in the Champions League final, deservedly have their hats in the ring.
Messi’s former PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe will also have his eye on the glittering prize at this year’s gala. The Paris native finished as the leading scorer at the 2022 World Cup and racked up 41 at club level for good measure.
However, it’s entirely likely that the rest of the field spend Monday night counting up Messi’s trophies with Thiago.
READ MORE ON THE 2023 BALLON D’OR NOMINATIONS AND PREDICTED RANKINGS