Robert Lewandowski has clarified his comments and expressed delight at Lionel Messi's praise after beating the Poland striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Messi claimed a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or last week, with Lewandowski having to settle for second and the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

The Bayern Munich forward may feel somewhat hard done by, given he scored 53 times in 42 games for the Bundesliga champions between the start of 2021 and the winner being announced by France Football.

That was the most of any player in Europe's top-five leagues across all competitions, with 2021 Copa America winner Messi down in joint-fifth with 32 goals.

Gerd Muller's long-standing record for the most goals (40) scored in a single Bundesliga season was also broken by Lewandowski, who netted 41 in 29 league games last term to make him favourite for the award that was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After accepting the award again, Messi made special mention of Lewandowski as he suggested the forward deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his 2020 performances.

Lewandowski appeared ungrateful for the praise, apparently saying to Polish channel Kanal Sportowy that he hoped Messi's words were "a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words," though he has since looked to clarify exactly what he meant.

"My statement, which I made in an interview with a Polish TV broadcaster, is currently being misinterpreted," Lewandowski told Kicker. "I never wanted to say that Lionel Messi's words were not serious or sincere.

"On the contrary. I was very touched and delighted by Lionel Messi's speech at the event in Paris, in which he expressed that, in his opinion, I deserved the Ballon d'Or 2020. I just wanted to express that I would of course be very happy if Messi's words were heard.

"I respect and appreciate Lionel Messi beyond measure and once again congratulate him on winning the Ballon d'Or 2021."

Robert Lewandowski has questioned whether winner Lionel Messi was sincere with his praise towards him after beating the Bayern Munich striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

Messi claimed the coveted accolade for a record-extending seventh time last week, with Lewandowski finishing second as he settled for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Lewandowski was somewhat unfortunate to miss out to Messi, having scored 53 times in 42 games for Bayern between the start of 2021 and the award being handed out.

That was the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions, with Messi – who won the Copa America with Argentina – joint-fifth on the list with 32 goals.

Poland international Lewandowski averaged a goal every 67 minutes over the same period. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the next-most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.

Lewandowski would also have been favourite to win the award last year had it not been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In his acceptance speech when collecting the award, Messi said Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his exploits in 2020.

"Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that [Lewandowski was] the big winner," Messi said. "Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d'Or 2020."

However, Lewandowski appeared unmoved by those comments from Messi and admitted to feeling upset about once again missing out on football's top individual honour.

"I felt sadness," he told Polish channel Kanal Sportowy. "I can't deny it. I can't say I was happy – on the contrary, I have a feeling of sadness. 

"To be so close, to compete with Messi, of course I respect how he plays and what he has achieved. The mere fact that I was able to compete with him shows me the level that I was able to reach.

"I'm not that enthusiastic about getting the 2020 award. I would like [Messi's statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words."

Lionel Messi insists outdoing supposed rival Cristiano Ronaldo has never been a source of extra motivation after the Argentinian won a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or crown.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi finished ahead of serious challenger Robert Lewandowski on Monday to cement his status as the world's best player.

The Argentina international has now won the award two times more than Manchester United striker Ronaldo, who finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.

Between them, the pair have won the Ballon d'Or – widely considered to be the most prestigious individual accolade in football – in 12 of the last 13 years it has been awarded.

They also battled it out for team honours during their time in LaLiga with Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Messi says he has only ever been focused on himself rather than others.

"I always wanted to surpass myself and not look at what others were doing," he told France Football. "With Cristiano, we kept our battle going within the same league for years. 

"It has been wonderful and has helped us both to grow in our careers, but without looking at each other. I just wanted to surpass myself, to be the best I could be, and not better than any other."

Messi had previously been criticised for failing to match the international achievements of Diego Maradona, but he finally guided Argentina to a first major trophy in 28 years back in July, as La Celeste won the Copa America.

The 34-year-old admits comparisons with Maradona "have sometimes bothered me in the past", and he also does not feel comfortable with being a role model himself.

"I don't like giving advice," he said. "I fought for my dreams. At first it was to be a professional player, then I tried to surpass myself and achieve new goals every year.

"In the midst of it all, there is also an element of luck. It also depends on God, and I believe he chose to have all of this happen to me."

The former Barcelona man added: "I've been Messi for 34 years, so I'm starting to get used to it. I'm happy with everything that's happened.

"But sometimes, I have to admit, I'd quite like to go unnoticed, to enjoy being with my family without people recognising me.

"I'm not complaining, though, on the contrary. It's always nice to receive a compliment, a smile or someone asking for a photo with me. I'm used to it and for me it has become normal."

Thomas Muller said it was "definitely a disappointment". Jurgen Klopp was left confused. Lothar Matthaus "doesn't understand the world any more". Even Lionel Messi used his victory speech to suggest France Football issue a retrospective 2020 award.

Whatever your views on the Ballon d'Or this year, chances are you saw Messi beating Robert Lewandowski to the prize and thought it was at least worthy of discussion. Robbed of the chance to claim it last year when France Football cancelled it – hence Messi's magnanimous suggestion to the organisers – Lewandowski suited up for this year's gala having scored 53 goals in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than anyone else, with a new single-season Bundesliga scoring record in his pocket and yet another league title with Bayern Munich. And all after winning the treble the season before. And it was only good enough for second place.

Now isn't the time for Lewandowski to dwell on disappointment, though. There's the small matter of the Klassiker on Saturday: Bayern are only a point above Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, a real title race is on the cards again. Plus, Dortmund have fit-again Erling Haaland back among the goals – and ready to give chase to Lewandowski's goalscoring benchmark.

After the Ballon d'Or disappointment, and with Dortmund and Haaland breathing down his neck, this would be a good time for Lewandowski to start laying a claim for the 2022 prize...

 

Meisters at work

There are some great rivalries in the Bundesliga, but this game is truly a German institution.

Dortmund and Bayern have met each other 129 times – it's the most frequently played match in German professional football history. Bayern have lost more often to Dortmund than any other side (32 times); likewise, nobody has beaten BVB as often as Bayern (63 times).

Recent history has been firmly on Bayern's side (even ignoring their nine consecutive league titles since Dortmund's last one in 2012). The champions have won each of the past six Klassikers, and all of the previous three on Dortmund's home turf. BVB have only lost four in a row at home to the same team on two occasions: against Hamburg from 1982-84, and against Juventus from 1993-2015.

 

Perhaps things will be different this time. After all, Dortmund have won seven home games in a row at the start of this season, something they have never achieved before. Beating Bayern would see them equal their club record of 12 consecutive home league victories, and few would argue it's impossible: with 30 points from 13 games, this is their third-best start to a season in the era of three points for a win.

With just a point separating them in the table, former Bayern defender Patrik Andersson certainly sees it being a close encounter. "First of all, when you see that Bayern lost against Augsburg, now it's only one point... I think it will be a decider, for the moment," he told Stats Perform.

"And also, for Bayern, a really important game before the big clash against Barcelona. And now Dortmund, having no chance in the Champions League, it is also a really important game for them. So, yeah, always a big clash."

Consider, too, Julian Nagelsmann's record against Dortmund. The Bayern boss has only managed one win in 11 Bundesliga meetings with Dortmund, his points-per-game average of 0.64 the lowest he has against any opposition. And while Bayern are enjoying their best Bundesliga season for six years (31 points in 13 games), scoring 42 times in that run – the second-best return in their history – they have managed precisely zero clean sheets in nine away league games. The last time that happened was in a 12-game run in 2010-11, during which Louis van Gaal was sacked as coach.

And that's before we come to Haaland, and the man in whose wake he treads – a pair who scored five of the six goals in the previous league meeting of these sides.

 

Tor-mentors in chief

Since the start of last season, Lewandowski has scored 73 goals in 60 games in all competitions, more than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues. His nearest rival, with 55 goals in 50 games, is Haaland.

Lewandowski's tally comes from a figure of 61.43 expected goals, meaning he is outperforming his expected output by 11.57, the biggest such differential in those top European leagues. Behind him come Karim Benzema on 9.33, Son Heung-min on 9.26, and Haaland on 9.11.

Among players to score at least 20 times since the start of 2020-21, Lewandowski boasts the second-best shot conversion rate (28.7 per cent). Top of that list is Haaland, the only man with a figure of more than 30 per cent (30.4).

By all meaningful measures, these two are the best goalscoring number nines in Europe, and have been for some time.

 

Haaland, of course, missed around a month of this season through injury and only returned against Wolfsburg last week. Naturally, he scored, becoming the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 goals and the only man to hit that milestone in as few as 50 games. Take away his league goals in 2021-22, and Dortmund would have six points fewer.

Lewandowski has already plundered 25 in just 20 games this term, 14 of which have come in the league. Without those, Bayern would be five points worse off, and we'd be talking about Bayer Leverkusen's chances of a first Bundesliga title.

Dortmund need no reminders about their old striker's prowess, of course. Lewandowski has scored 24 times against his former club, making them his favourite opposition alongside Wolfsburg. Should he score this weekend at Signal Iduna Park, he would match Klaus Fischer's record of 117 away goals scored in Bundesliga history – and in 83 fewer appearances.

 

For Lewandowski, this match represents a quick opportunity to remind everyone not only why he should have won this year's Ballon d'Or, but why he should be favourite for next year's, too. Firing Bayern to victory would also bolster their chances of a remarkable 10th league title in a row, and put in his place the young pretender to his throne as football's greatest marksman.

And make no mistake: Haaland is coming for that title, and more besides.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah said he has "no comment" to coming seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting as he laughed off finishing low down the list.

The Egypt international was considered among the favourites to come out on top at Monday's ceremony in Paris on the back of another impressive year for Liverpool.

However, Salah finished below Cristiano Ronaldo, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Jorginho, Robert Lewandowski and record-extending seven-time winner Lionel Messi.

After scoring twice in Liverpool's 4-1 win against Everton on Wednesday, Salah was asked by Amazon Prime how he felt about finishing seventh in the standings.

Salah shook his head while laughing and said: "I have no comment".

Prolific forward Salah doubled Liverpool's lead after Jordan Henderson had opened the scoring at Goodison Park, before Demarai Gray pulled one back for Everton.

Salah's second and a thumping Diogo Jota strike sealed a third win in a row for the Reds, who remain within one point of Manchester City and two behind leaders Chelsea.

It is the first time Liverpool have scored four goals away to Everton in the league since a 5-0 victory in November 1982 and Salah was pleased with the performance.

"It's a great result. To come here, play good football and win the game is something positive," he said.

"The scoreline is great. We also scored five against Manchester [United] – hopefully we can continue like that."

Salah, who is the first Liverpool player to score twice away at Everton in the league since Fernando Torres in 2008, added: "Hopefully there are many more goals to come.

"My first target is to win something at the club – the Premier League, the Champions League... hopefully both."

Salah has now scored 13 Premier League goals this season, nine of which have come away from home – more than double the number of any other player.

He is also the first Liverpool player to register a goal or assist in seven consecutive away appearances in the competition.

The 34 goals Salah has scored in all competitions this calendar year is a tally bettered only by Benzema (35), Kylian Mbappe (37), Erling Haaland (38) and Lewandowski (53) among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Thomas Muller believes Robert Lewandowski should have trumped Lionel Messi after the Argentina international claimed his seventh Ballon d'Or title.

Messi collected his record-extending seventh accolade after more success with Barcelona and Argentina, who ended a 28-year wait for a major trophy with their Copa America win, despite struggling at new club Paris-Saint Germain.

The 34-year-old has scored just once for PSG in seven Ligue 1 outings this term, while Lewandowski has netted 25 times in 20 appearances across all competitions this season for Bayern.

The Poland forward also registered 41 goals in just 29 league games for Die Roten last campaign to break Gerd Muller's 49-year record in a single Bundesliga season, but only finished runner-up at Monday's ceremony.

While coronavirus forced a cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d'Or, which Lewandowski appeared favourite for, Muller feels his team-mate was deserving of the 2021 award as well.

 

"From a Bavarian, Polish and also from a German point of view, the presentation of the Ballon d'Or yesterday evening was definitely a disappointment," Muller wrote in a post on his official LinkedIn profile.

"For some even a little more. Although I've been in the business for a bit longer and was therefore not really surprised at the outcome (it was similar with Franck Ribery in 2013), the whole thing formed or reinforced a thought in me: We have great players in the Bundesliga and we have to not hide us. However, further international successes are necessary for global recognition.

"This is also a huge motivation for me to put everything into the balance in order to bring the Champions League back to Munich and to show the football world what is going on. And above all, what German football has to offer.

"We have the next opportunity to do so next Wednesday in the Champions League game against Barcelona. Let's tackle it! 

"PS: With Lionel Messi, he is probably the best individualist football has ever produced. So congratulations to Lionel on winning the Ballon d'Or, even if I think that Robert Lewandowski would have deserved it more this time."

Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

"I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

"And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

 

Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

Lionel Messi "completely deserved" his record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or, according to Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino.

The PSG star has endured something of a slow start to the Ligue 1 season, scoring just once in seven games, but his prior exploits with Barcelona and Argentina were enough to secure another accolade.

The 34-year-old's performances for Argentina at the Copa America, helping his country to a first major trophy in 28 years, were likely what gave him the edge over Robert Lewandowski.

Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, who Messi claimed should have been awarded the cancelled 2020 Ballon d'Or, was once again in the running after breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season.

But Pochettino insists his Argentinian compatriot was the most deserving of the award for yet another outstanding year in which he has also managed 32 goals and 12 assists across 40 club appearances.

"Firstly, I want to publicly congratulate Leo and his family," Pochettino told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference ahead of the visit of Nice. 

"Winning seven Ballons d'Or is an extraordinary achievement. I hope he takes advantage of it and that it's the first day to work on getting the eighth.

"To have players with six and seven Ballon d'Or is something extraordinary and we are delighted to have him here every day. 

"We hope at the end of the year to also have collective trophies beyond the individual trophies."

Asked about the criticism of the Argentina international's victory, Pochettino responded: "Messi completely deserved it and there is no debate. 

"Of course, in other countries there may be criticism, but he completely deserved it."

Ahead of Wednesday's clash with Nice, PSG lead Ligue 1 by 12 points after winning 13 of their opening 15 games, a total surpassed only once at this stage in the competition by PSG themselves in 2018-19 (14/15).

The league leaders may be without Messi for the clash at Parc des Princes, though, after the former Barcelona forward, along with Leandro Paredes, did not train on Tuesday due to a stomach bug.

PSG will decide on the fitness of the pair on the morning of the Nice game, while they will definitely be without Neymar, who is expected to be out for six to eight weeks due to an ankle injury sustained against Saint-Etienne.

Karim Benzema will be extra motivated to win the 2022 Ballon d'Or after finishing fourth in this year's voting, according to Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The 33-year-old has scored 34 goals for Madrid this calendar year and was recalled to the France squad in May after a six-year exile.

Benzema's combined 46 goals and assists in 2021 has been bettered only by Erling Haaland (48), Kylian Mbappe (51) and Robert Lewandowski (59) from Europe's top five leagues when taking all club competitions into account.

The Madrid striker finished behind Euro 2020 winner Jorginho, Lewandowski and record seven-time winner Lionel Messi at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony, with N'Golo Kante completing the top five.

Benzema's Madrid team-mate Toni Kroos has argued the Frenchman did more than Paris Saint-Germain star Messi this year to win the award.

But Ancelotti accepts the decision, determined by journalists from across the world, and insists Benzema will not be fazed by finishing outside the top three.

"We have to give fair value to the classification," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's LaLiga contest with Athletic Bilbao.

"Messi has won and we must congratulate him. The individual awards are important but if they do not win it is not a catastrophe. I hope next year a Madrid player will win it.

"Benzema has had a great season and finished fourth. He will continue to be motivated to try to be first next time.

"If I had a vote, I would not choose any player outside of my own team. I'd have voted Benzema first, Vinicius [Junior] second, [Thibaut] Courtois third, Casemiro fourth.

"But you have to respect and congratulate Messi on winning."

Madrid-linked forward Kylian Mbappe finished ninth, but Ancelotti does not believe leaving Paris Saint-Germain will necessarily enhance his chances of winning the coveted crown.

"Playing for a great club can help you, but it is still an individual prize," Ancelotti said when asked specifically about Mbappe.

"These players will not cry because they have not won the award. The likes of Benzema and Courtois will accept it without a problem."

Benzema and Vinicius are in contention to start Wednesday's clash with Athletic as Madrid aim to make it five league wins in a row and maintain a four-point lead at the top.

Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 LaLiga games against Athletic (W8 D4), one short of their best unbeaten run against the Basque club in the top flight.

Ancelotti, who has lost only one of his four LaLiga games against Athletic, is prepared to make changes to Madrid's line-up three days on from their 2-1 win against Sevilla.

"It's an evaluation I make every day," he said. "The dynamics of the team right now are very good. I won't rotate for the sake of it, but if we have any risks then of course we will do it.

"We are facing a well organised team at the back. Marcelino trains all his teams very well, especially in a defensive sense.

"This game will demand a lot from us and we need some offensive clarity. They are also a team that attacks vertically, so we must show good balance."

Despite having to contend with injury problems and a congested schedule, Ancelotti reiterated Madrid are not likely to bring in any new players in January.

"You have the summer to improve the squad," he said. "I don't like using January to adjust as that means something must have gone wrong in the summer.

"If players are not happy then we'll think about it, but we are not looking to sign. The squad is fine and will compete until the end."

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were more deserving of winning the 2021 Ballon d'Or award than Lionel Messi, according to Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos.

Messi won football's top individual accolade for a record-extending seventh time on Monday largely thanks to his success at international level with Argentina.

The 34-year-old played a key part in Argentina's Copa America success, contributing to nine of the 13 goals his side scored as he ended his long wait for an international trophy.

He has had a rather more mixed year at club level, having scored 28 goals in 29 games for Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in August.

Messi has netted just four times in his first 11 games for PSG, but he did enough to finish ahead of favourite Robert Lewandowski for his latest Ballon d'Or triumph.

Lewandowski finished second despite scoring 53 times in 42 games this year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third, followed by Benzema – who has 34 goals this year – in fourth and N'Golo Kante placed fifth. 

Five-time winner Ronaldo finished sixth – the first time he has failed to make the top three in 11 years – but Kroos insists his former team-mate, as well as current colleague Benzema, have impressed more this year than Messi.

"[Messi's] award is absolutely not deserved," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. "There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano, has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should've been others ahead of him.

"For me, Karim would have been the number one if you were really looking for the best individual player of the last year. I can see from close quarters what an outstanding footballer he is.

"When I see how many decisive goals Cristiano has scored lately – Manchester United are still in the Champions League thanks to him alone – then, in my eyes, Cristiano would have also come before Messi."

Messi won the first of his seven Ballons d'Or in 2009 and now has two more than Ronaldo, with Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten next on the list with three each.

The PSG superstar's latest success has caused plenty of debate, however, with legendary Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas also questioning the outcome of Monday's vote.

"It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards," he posted on his personal Twitter account.

"For me, Messi, he is one of the five best players in all of history, but you have to know how to list the most outstanding players in a season. It's not that hard."

Bayern Munich great Lothar Matthaus "does not understand the world anymore" after Robert Lewandowski missed out to Lionel Messi for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

Poland international Lewandowski was considered the favourite to come out on top at Monday's ceremony in Paris following another impressive 12 months for Bayern.

The 33-year-old has scored 53 times in 42 appearances this calendar year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

He has averaged a goal every 67 minutes and also made history earlier this year by breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old record for the most goals in a Bundesliga season with 41.

Despite his impressive achievements in front of goal, Lewandowski finished second in the voting to Lionel Messi, who claimed a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

Matthaus, who won the coveted trophy in 1990, was among those to question the final standings, which saw Jorginho finish third, Karim Benzema fourth and N'Golo Kante in fifth.

"To be honest, after this vote, I don't understand the world anymore," he told Sky Sport. 

"With all due respect to Messi and the other great nominated players, nobody deserves it like Lewandowski."

Lewandowski, who also missed out on the 2020 award after it was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead had to settle for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Bayern director Oliver Kahn was also surprised to see Messi pip Lewandowski to football's top individual prize.

"Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d'Or just as much as his top scorer trophy because he has performed at the highest level for years," Kahn said.

"But congratulations nonetheless to Lionel Messi. 

"Even without the Ballon d'Or, Lewy has long since arrived as one of the Olympus of football greats. He will still be a Ballon d'Or contender in the years to come."

While Messi had a rather more mixed campaign at club level compared to Lewandowski, the Paris Saint-Germain forward did inspire Argentina to Copa America glory in July.

Messi scored 28 goals in 29 games in the first half of 2021 with Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to PSG, for whom he has scored four goals in his first 11 games.

Lewandowski took to social media on Monday to congratulate the superstar forward on his latest triumph, which takes him two clear of five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Congratulations Leo Messi and Alexia Putellas, winners of the #BallonDor2021, congratulations also to all nominated players," he tweeted.

"I won Striker of the Year Award and no player can win an individual award without the strongest team and loyal fans behind him. Thank you for your support."

Paris Saint-Germain remain hopeful of reopening contract talks with Kylian Mbappe and want him to win the Ballon d'Or with the club, president Nasser Al-Khelaifi declared.

Al-Khelaifi also dismissed speculation that PSG want to replace head coach Mauricio Pochettino with Zinedine Zidane.

Speaking after Lionel Messi became the first player from the club to win Ballon d'Or honours – largely attributed to him winning the Copa America with Argentina – Al-Khelaifi made his position known about the burning issues affecting PSG.

There have been deep worries that Mbappe will walk away on a free transfer at the end of the season, when his current deal expires. Real Madrid wanted him in the last transfer window and are expected to move again. Unless Mbappe commits to a new deal, he would be free to talk to the likes of Madrid from January.

But Al-Khelaifi can see a future in which Mbappe continues to terrorise defences in a PSG shirt, just as he is currently doing in tandem with former Barcelona captain Messi.

The PSG president addressed that within the context of Messi's award success, saying: "For the club, it is the first, I hope it is not the last. I hope that other players will win it, starting with Kylian. I'm sure he wants to win it."

Speaking to L'Equipe, Al-Khelaifi said of the 22-year-old striker's future: "You know what I think, Kylian is a great player, a great man. Kylian knows what he wants to do, us too."

On the potential for new contract talks, the PSG president added, according to RMC Sport: "We hope."

It remains to be seen whether either Mbappe or Pochettino stay in Paris beyond the end of this season.

There have been persistent rumours that PSG would consider swapping Pochettino for former Real Madrid boss Zidane, but Al-Khelaifi threw his support behind the Argentine coach currently at the helm.

"Pochettino is our coach and he is happy to be with us, we are happy to work with him," Al-Khelaifi said.

"He is doing a good job. Everyone needs time. I see all the rumours, we have to stop talking about this, it's not true.

"We're truly happy with the coach. We haven't had any contact with Zidane. He's a great coach, but we also have a very good one."

Pedri credited Ballon d'Or winner and superstar Lionel Messi for helping him become a better player after claiming the Kopa Trophy.

Barcelona and Spain midfielder Pedri received the Kopa Trophy on Monday following a superb year for club and country, while Messi scooped a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

The Kopa Trophy is presented to the best player under the age of 21, with Barca sensation Pedri only turning 19 on November 25.

Pedri enjoyed a fine season with Barca before leading Spain to the Euro 2020 semi-finals and featuring in the country's run to an Olympic Games silver medal.

Afterwards, Pedri heaped praise on his former Barca team-mate Messi, who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season.

"Messi helped me a lot in my career and made me a better player," Pedri told reporters following the ceremony in Paris.

"It was fantastic to learn from a player like Lionel Messi.

"It was a spectacular year, and I am super happy with how things went. I think I improved as a player and a person."

On Messi's high-profile Barca exit, Pedri added: "Leo was an important player and the best player in the world. I just have to carry on playing and doing what I do at Barcelona."

Pedri was also named on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, finishing 24th in the overall rankings.

"Well every player wants to win the Ballon d'Or. That's something that all footballers dream of having," he said.

"But I have to be the best player I can and to carry in improving and working before I can on day hope to get that trophy."

Lionel Messi is not sure if his record will be broken after the Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina superstar won a seventh Ballon d'Or on Monday.

Messi claimed the coveted award for a record-extending seventh time during a ceremony in Paris, while Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski won the inaugural Striker of the Year award and finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting.

Many had backed Lewandowski to take home the prized individual honour, after France Football's 2020 Ballon d'Or was scrapped due to COVID-19 – the Bayern forward has scored 53 goals in 42 appearances in 2021, the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

But Messi added to his incredible haul after guiding Argentina to a drought-ending triumph at the Copa America – the country's first piece of silverware in 28 years, while he has netted 32 goals and supplied 12 assists across 40 club appearances for Barcelona and PSG this year.

"I don't know if the record is beatable, I just have to accept it," the 34-year-old Messi told reporters, with Cristiano Ronaldo next on the list after winning the award five times.

"But honestly, I don't know if this record seven Ballon d'Or's can be beaten. But seven anyhow is really impressive and I'm very happy to win it here in Paris.

"Concerning [Liverpool star] Mohamed Salah, like [Robert] Lewandowski he will have other opportunities in the years to come. Both players are really at the best at what they've managed so far. They will have other opportunities to win the trophy."

 

Messi scored four goals and provided five assists as he led the Albiceleste to their first Copa America title since 1993, involved in nine of the 12 goals scored by Argentina at the showpiece South American tournament.

"I had a pretty good year with Barcelona without titles, however I did win the Copa del Rey," Argentina's captain and all-time leading scorer Messi added.

"The Copa America was very important to help me win this Ballon d'Or. And yes, I am very proud to be the first PSG to conquer this Ballon d'Or. It's special to do so with another jersey and it makes me very proud.

"This trophy really is special. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment with the Argentine national team. It was indeed a special year for me and of course it helped me in this new stage in my life, this move to PSG and my family and kids.

"I know they enjoy the moment and I enjoy seeing them happy. Seeing my parents, cousins and brothers happy, too."

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi clinched a seventh Ballon d'Or, extending his record as the player to have won the individual accolade on the most occasions.

The 34-year-old enjoyed a fruitful year at club level, scoring 32 times in 40 appearances across all competitions for PSG and Barcelona, but it was his exploits with Argentina that were most impressive, claiming the first major international trophy of his career by winning the Copa America. 

Bayern Munich's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski came second to Messi, but became the first winner of the Striker of the Year award after outscoring every player in Europe's top five leagues, netting 53 times in 42 appearances across all competitions so far in 2021, averaging a goal every 67 minutes.

Messi's PSG team-mate Gianluigi Donnarumma claimed the Yashin Trophy, awarded to the best goalkeeper, and was named 10th in the Ballon d'Or voting.

Donnarumma starred for Italy as they won Euro 2020, making a number of crucial saves in the shoot-out victory over England in the final.

Barcelona and Spain youngster Pedri won the Kopa Trophy after featuring heavily for club and country despite only turning 19 on November 25, also being shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or and finishing 24th.

Another Barca midfielder, Alexia Putellas, picked up the women's top prize, having helped the Catalan giants' women's team to Champions League and domestic glory in 2020-21.

Finally, Chelsea had 11 players nominated across all categories, making them the inaugural Club of the Year winners.

Award winners in full:

Men's Ballon d'Or – Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
Kopa Trophy – Pedri (Barcelona and Spain)
Yashin Trophy – Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)
Club of the Year – Chelsea (England)
Striker of the Year – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
Women's Ballon d'Or – Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)

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