Ballon d’Or: Biggest ‘Robberies’ in History As Messi Beats Haaland in 2023 Race

Ballon d’Or: Biggest ‘Robberies’ in History As Messi Beats Haaland in 2023 Race

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
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FIFA World Cup
  • Wesley Sneijder's 2010 Ballon d'Or snub sparked controversy as the playmaker was involved in every trophy his side won
  • The Inter Milan star did not make it even in the top three despite winning a treble and the Bronze Boot at the FIFA World Cup
  • Franck Ribery had a similar case to be made against Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013 after winning the treble with Bayern Munich

The decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in the 'weird' month of December brought about a string of unprecedented discussions ahead of the 2023 Ballon d'Or race.

The global tournament is often a strong indicator of who will win the coveted individual award, with Lionel Messi leading the race for the gong and Erling Haaland diving into the argument with spectacular performances at club level.

However, with Messi's early elimination from the UEFA Champions League, the 2023 race was determined by a couple of things apart from the World Cup.

Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery, Wesley Sneijder, Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema
Former Bayern Munich teammates Robert Lewandowski and Franck Ribery in 2018. Photo by Christof Stache.
Source: Getty Images

Messi eventually won the duel, beating the Norwegian forward to extend his tally to a record-breaking eight.

After winning the treble and scoring a million goals (in Pep Guardiola's words), what else could he do? Was Messi the deserved winner?

Sports Brief looks at some of the most controversial calls in the history of the award.

1. Robert Lewandowski - 2020

The theft herein was the fact that the awards were cancelled at a time when Lewandowski was on his way to winning his first title.

His could have been uncontested like the Karim Benzema triumph of last year, as the Polish star was in a class of his own.

According to a report by Goal, organisers cited the coronavirus pandemic as a reason, but every sane football fan knows it was Lewandowski's award for the taking.

2. Franck Ribery - 2013

Ribery was part of the Bayern Munich squad that won the treble under Jupp Heynckes. He was the focal point of the attack that saw off Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final.

However, he was beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo to the award despite the Portuguese star finishing the season without a single trophy.

The latter was adjudged to have had better individual numbers than Ribery, with the French star not even finishing in second place - boy, was he bitter!

3. Wesley Sneijder - 2010

How the Ballon d'Or winner is determined came under intense scrutiny in 2010. Whether it was one's goals or how one had inspired his side to trophies was discussed widely.

Judging by the outcome, the former won the argument as Lionel Messi was declared the winner. While it is hard to argue against his 60-goal contribution that season, Sneijder had made Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan tick.

Inter won the treble that season and the Dutch legend followed it up with another marquee performance at the World Cup. He was only outperformed by Uruguay's Diego Forlan as the Netherlands reached the final.

Messi's Argentina, meanwhile, bowed out in the quarter-finals and his team was eliminated from the Champions League by Sneijder's mighty Inter side.

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Messi gives opinion on Haaland and Mbappe

Sports Brief also reported on Messi winning his eighth Ballon d'Or award on October 30, ahead of both Haaland and Mbappe.

However, the Argentine believes both of these youngsters will earn football's most coveted prize for themselves in the future.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)