"Scandalous!" Messi's seventh Ballon d'Or win slammed as undeserving by critics

Monday saw the highly-anticipated 2021 Ballon d'Or take place, with some of the world's greatest footballers going head-to-head for France Football's coveted prize. However, only one man can come away with the accolade, and that player was none other than Lionel Messi.

The Argentine, who was one of the favorites for the prize after his heroics with Argentina over the summer, beat out the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jorginho, and Karim Benzema to lift the award for a record-extending seventh time. La Pulga's Copa America win, his first senior international trophy, was the driving force behind his campaign, but it should not be forgotten that the 34-year-old enjoyed an excellent individual 2020/21 season with Barcelona, leading them to the Copa del Rey.

However, not everyone believes the Argentine icon deserved this year's Ballon d'Or, especially those in Germany. Well-known newspaper Bild labelled this decision as "scandalous", writing on Tuesday, the day after Messi's win: "This cannot be true. It is a scandalous choice."

But why the heated reaction? Many felt Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski was the most deserving of this year's Ballon d'Or, having scored the most number of goals in Europe's top five leagues in 2021. Bild weren't alone as German legend Lothar Matthaus also hit out at this decision, claiming to have been flabbergasted by yesterday's event.

"To be honest, after this decision I don't understand the world anymore," Matthaus told Sky Sports Germany

"With all due respect to Lionel Messi and all the other great nominated players. Nobody deserves it like Lewandowski. France Football didn't award the prize last year, and if only because of all the titles that Robert has won with Bayern 2020, he is unrivalled not only in the last two years.

"But even if you only take 2021 into account, he was better than the rest. He broke Gerd Müller's record of the century, is again top of the top scorers list in every competition, and has surpassed everyone nationally and internationally this year as well."

And the criticism continued. Toni Kroos, a German international and La Liga player, argued that while Leo is one of the best players in history, the Albiceleste legend had no claim to this year's gong. In fact, the 2014 World Cup winner even went as far as claiming La Pulga did not merit a spot in the top three, naming Benzema, Lewandowski, and Jorginho as the best respectively.

"It's absolutely not deserved," the Mannschaft ace said on his podcast, as per the Daily Mail

"There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano, has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should've been others ahead of him."

Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas also aired a similar sentiment, stating that the decision to award this year's Ballon d'Or to Leo further diminishes the credibility of France Football's coveted accolade. 

"It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards," the Spanish goalkeeper said.

"Messi is one of the best but you have to know who is the most outstanding player after the season. It's not that hard."

During his acceptance speech, Leo did acknowledge that Lewandowski was deserving of the award. However, the Argentine mostly pointed to the Polish striker's spectacular 2019/20 campaign, leading his Bundesliga employers to a historic treble. Unfortunately, the 2020 Ballon d'Or was called off as several leagues were cancelled mid-season due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

"I would like to mention Robert Lewandowski, it's been a real honour to compete with you," Messi said after collecting the trophy," was Leo's classy tribute to Lewandowski.

"Everyone knows and we agree that you were the winner last year.

"I think France Football should award you your 2020 Ballon d'Or - you deserve it and you should have it at home." 

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