Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez has suggested that without Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance, Lionel Messi could have won 15 Ballon d’Or awards instead of his current eight.
Messi won his latest golden ball in Paris on Monday, achieving two significant milestones. Not only did he win the award a record-breaking eight times, but the Argentine became the first MLS player to earn the honour.
Martinez, a teammate of Messi on the Argentina national team, was also one of 30 nominees in consideration for the award. When speaking to the media, Martinez recognised Messi’s greatness.
“We are grateful for him because [of] what he has done in football. I think very few will be able to achieve it,” said Martinez. As I said, he had to share an era with Cristiano Ronaldo. Otherwise, he would have won 15 Ballon d’Ors.”
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In addition to being an international teammate, Messi has consistently praised Martinez in the media. His support of the Inter Milan forward was notably on display during the last two seasons when Martinez was frequently linked as a transfer target for several high-profile clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, and Paris Saint-Germain.
When all signs pointed to Martinez potentially joining the Premier League at the beginning of last season, Messi said the following about his countryman: “He’s spectacular. He has impressive qualities. You could tell he was going to be a great player, and he is showing that.
“He’s very strong, really good one-on-one, scores a lot of goals, and in the area, he fights with anyone, holds it up, he can turn, scrap to win it all on his own. He has a lot of quality. He’s very complete.”
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Ronaldo won the award five times: in 2008 and then four times in a row from 2014 to 2017. While he didn’t address Messi’s record-breaking achievement in an interview, the Portuguese star responded to a post with laughing emojis on social media by a Spanish journalist criticising Messi’s success in winning the award.
After the award’s ceremony commenced, the Spanish journalist posted a video saying, “Hello friends. What we knew happened they were going to give Messi another Ballon d’Or again.
“He went to retire in Miami, even though he already looked like he was retired at PSG preparing for the World Cup. He won the World Cup, yes, good, but with six penalties. The World Cup was 10 months ago. It’s November.
“Messi has eight Ballon d’Ors. He should have had five. He has Iniesta/Xavi’s Ballon d’Or, Lewandowski’s who won six trophies in one season, and Haaland’s who was the top scorer.”
The battle for the award between Messi and Ronaldo has always been personal. After Messi won his seventh award, he admitted that once Cristiano tied him for the prize with five wins in 2017, he felt “hurt.”
“On the one hand, I appreciated having five and being the only one to do so,” Messi said. “When Cristiano leveled me, I have to admit that it hurt me a bit. I was no longer alone at the summit. But it was logical, even if it is nice when you are alone on five.”
The latest award victory for the Argentine marked the end of an era in the sport. It was the first time Messi or Ronaldo secured the award without the other even being considered as a finalist.
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