Lionel Messi says there can be “no doubts” Karim Benzema will be a worthy Ballon d’Or winner after the Real Madrid star cemented his frontrunner status with Champions League glory.
The France international is the favourite to succeed Messi as the next recipient of the game’s most prestigious individual prize after inspiring his side to domestic and European success this term.
Benzema netted 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions this term for Carlo Ancelotti’s side and led them in Paris to victory over Liverpool on Saturday as captain.
Messi has added to his trophy cabinet with a Ligue 1 title at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in his first year away from FC Barcelona.
But he certainly feels Benzema has earned his shot at the award.
“I think there are no doubts,” Messi had said on Monday night when asked if the Frenchman would be a fitting successor as the Ballon d’Or winner.
“It is very clear that Benzema has had a spectacular year and ended up consecrating himself with the UEFA Champions League, being fundamental from the round of 16 onwards in all the games.
“I think there are no doubts this year.”
Messi also reflected on his triumph in 2021, when he defended the crown he won in 2019 against Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
That was after the award was cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski would have been many people’s favourite in 2020 and went on to break Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season the following year.
Yet he was forced to make do with second behind Messi after he helped Argentina to their first Copa America success in 28 years.
Messi acknowledged Lewandowski would have been a worthy winner in 2020, but on reflection feels he deserved the 2021 triumph he was awarded.
“What I said at that moment was from my heart and because I really felt that way,” Messi said, alluding to his comments at the 2021 Ballon d’Or ceremony.
“I said that he deserved the Ballon d’Or before, because the year before it had seemed to me that he had been the best.
“But the year that I won, he wasn’t the best. I just said that. But let him take it as he wants. Everyone says what they want and obviously he can express himself and say what he wants.
“Honestly, I don’t share what he said, but I didn’t give it much importance either. That’s it, he can say what he wants, I’m not interested.”