Lionel Messi missed out on making the Ballon d’Or shortlist for the first time since 2005, paying the price for an underwhelming first campaign with Paris Saint-Germain. The seven-time winner was left off the 30-strong list for this year’s award.
Messi, who won the award last year, made it to the shortlist every year since 2006 and was a regular in the top three since 2007, except in 2018. But the 35-year-old missed out on the 2022 award after switching from boyhood club Barcelona.
A change in format also worked against the Argentine with the Ballon d’Or acknowledging the best player over a calendar year no longer. The award is now based on a season’s record that highlight the nominees’ individual performances and decisive and impressive character.
Messi left Barcelona during the 2021 summer transfer window after the Spanish club found itself unable to pay his massive wages. However, the Argentine failed to stamp his authority on a Paris Saint-Germain team desperate to win the UEFA Champions League. The French champions fell to defeat in the last 16 to eventual winners Real Madrid.
Messi scored 11 goals for the Parisians during the season and his indifferent club form failed to impress France Football magazine, the award’s organisers. The award will be presented in Paris on October 17.
Messi’s club teammate Neymar also missed on the nomination after scoring 13 goals in 28 matches. The other nominees, however, included very few surprises.
French striker Karim Benzema is the favourite after leading Real Madrid to their 14th UEFA Champions League title, finishing the campaign with 15 goals.
During the season, the Frenchman scored 44 goals in 46 matches for the double-winning Madrid side. He also scored on Wednesday in Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the European Super Cup.
The 30-man list features several of Benzema’s Real Madrid teammates — Casemiro, 2018 winner Luka Modric, Thibaut Courtois, Vinicius Junior, and former Chelsea star Antonio Rudiger.
Liverpool, who lost in the UEFA Champions League final to Madrid, have seven players on the list — the most for any club. They include Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk, and Sadio Mane, who has since joined Bayern Munich.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has also been nominated this year.