x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Xavi holds firm that Messi still deserved the Ballon d’Or

Proclamation does not go down well with Ballon d'Or nominee Franck Ribery

Xavi says Lionel Messi, left, should still receive the Ballon d'Or despite the latter suffering an injury-plagued start to the season. Getty Images
Xavi says Lionel Messi, left, should still receive the Ballon d'Or despite the latter suffering an injury-plagued start to the season. Getty Images

DUBAI // The glower said it all. Franck Ribery, the Bayern Munich winger, was seated alongside Barcelona’s Xavi on the final day of the Globe Soccer Conference on Sunday when the latter was asked who he thought deserved this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Ribery has been nominated alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the award, which recognises the best footballer in the world and will be presented on January 13. Xavi, a teammate and friend of Messi’s, did not hesitate with his answer.

“I have been on the podium for the Ballon d’Or and I am sure Franck and Cristiano are very excited to win,” said Xavi, who finished third in 2010 and 2011. “If we have to choose the best player in the world, though, we have to pick not only the best player in the world, but also the best player in history and for me, it is Messi. He is the best ever.”

While Messi and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo have continued their scoring feats this year, neither finished the 2012/13 season with a Uefa Champions League medal.

Ribery, meanwhile, was critical to Bayern’s domestic dominance as well as to the German side’s victorious European campaign. He shone against Juventus in the quarter-finals, sparkled against Barcelona in the semis and was superb against Borussia Dortmund in the final. He beat Messi and Ronaldo to win Uefa’s Best Player of 2012/13, which Messi said the Frenchman “deserved to win”.

Yesterday, when asked whether he thinks he has done enough to add the Ballon d’Or to his list of personal accolades, Ribery suggested that if he does not win next month, then he never will.

“This year with Bayern, I have lived the best days of my life,” he said. “It has been the best year for me and the club. I have won everything there is to win and contributed to my team to help us become champions. I don’t know if there is anything else I could do. All I can say now is Inshallah. Whatever happens, I will be happy.”

Later at the annual two-day Dubai conference, during a moment of mutual admiration, Xavi conceded he does not want to suffer at the hands of Ribery again in this year’s Champions League, while Ribery said he would like Xavi to explain how he passes the ball so well. Xavi maintained, however, that Messi would be his choice were he allowed to decide the Ballon d’Or.

“If I were to vote, I would say Messi first, Franck second and Ronaldo third, but that is just my opinion, which doesn’t matter as I don’t get to vote,” Xavi said.

The Ballon d’Or is decided by captains and coaches of international teams, as well as journalists from around the world. Messi has won the trophy for the past four years, while Ronaldo won in 2008 while with Manchester United.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae