As the world gears itself to witness the next winner of one of the most coveted individual honours in the game of football, Pascal Ferré, the president of France Football, the publication behind the Ballon d’Or, has proclaimed Argentine great Lionel Messi as being synonymous with the honour.

According to Marca, Pascal said regarding the seven-time winner of the award, “He is someone who embodies the Ballon d’Or well, because he combines individual and collective performance, but also a certain idea of spectacle and a long longevity”.

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Pascal’s statement comes in a year when Messi, for the first time since 2005, has not been nominated for the award. However, it is he who stands tall with the highest number of Ballon d’Or wins, and is trailed by Cristiano Ronaldo who has won on five occasions. 

Among all active players in the world, Messi alone has seven while all others together have six (Luka Modric winning one in 2018). 

While speaking about Messi receiving a phone call from him in 2019 about his win after not taking home the golden ball in three consecutive years (2016-18), Pascal said, “In 2019 he told me that he had forgotten the feeling of pleasure of winning it (after a three-year break where he was not recognized), he had realized that he missed it. In 2021 I had the impression that I was talking to a child.”

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Pascal also said that Ronaldo, whose career has been defined by his rivalry with Messi, “has not digested well to be left behind his great rival”.

According to Pascal, the award is very important for players like Messi and Ronaldo since “The Ballon d’Or is one of the few things that cannot be bought. That makes them humble in the face of this type of reward, it makes them children”.

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Regarding whether Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland have a possibility to create a rivalry and boast of glittering careers like Messi and Ronaldo, Pascal said, “There is a lot of talk about the rivalry between Mbappé and Haaland, but neither has won the Champions League. At Mbappé’s age, Messi already had two Ballon d’Ors. If they want to establish a similar rivalry they have to start winning major trophies now. Messi and Ronaldo didn’t take that long.”