Lionel Messi is poised to secure an unprecedented eighth Ballon d’Or for his outstanding performance in the 2022/23 season, notably for his pivotal role in leading Argentina to its first World Cup triumph since 1986. This monumental achievement further solidifies Messi’s status as an absolute legend in the realm of global football, placing him among the highest echelons of the sport’s greatest luminaries.
Despite these remarkable feats, Messi’s illustrious career is far from over. Currently plying his trade with Major League Soccer outfit Inter Miami in the United States, there remains the possibility of him adding more of these coveted individual honors to his already impressive collection.
However, as it stands, this prospect isn’t feasible. Despite Messi’s dazzling impact in the United States, including aiding Inter Miami in clinching the 2023 Leagues Cup in his initial appearances, he is ineligible to contend for another Ballon d’Or while representing his current club.
The Sporting News elucidates the reasons behind why this illustrious player may never secure another Ballon d’Or in his career.
### Why Lionel Messi Cannot Secure the Ballon d’Or While at Inter Miami
While Lionel Messi may be setting the pitch ablaze at Inter Miami, regardless of opinions on whether this solidifies him as the world’s best player, it doesn’t suffice to earn him a Ballon d’Or award for the 2023/24 season. Even the debates on whether Major League Soccer provides a platform for a viable Ballon d’Or candidate are irrelevant.
This is due to the stipulation that the Ballon d’Or is exclusively open to players under contract with European clubs.
Originally, the Ballon d’Or, presented by France Football, was exclusively accessible to players of European origin playing for European clubs. This criterion, however, was altered in 1995, a shift that allowed Liberia’s George Weah, representing AC Milan, to become the first non-European player to clinch the award. Nevertheless, the award remains restricted to players based in Europe. Thus, Lionel Messi, currently affiliated with an American club, would be ineligible, regardless of the brilliance or struggles he experiences.
The same rule applies to Cristiano Ronaldo, who, while playing for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, would similarly be disqualified—unless he opts to depart the Saudi Pro League and return to European football.
How Lionel Messi Could Secure a Ninth Ballon d’Or
While Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or aspirations with Inter Miami may be a non-starter, there’s still a scenario in which he could vie for the award in the future.
To be in contention for another Ballon d’Or in 2024 and beyond, Messi would need to feature for a European club at some juncture during the season on which the annual award is adjudicated.
This becomes particularly relevant if Messi entertains the idea of extending his career to participate in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Given that Messi’s Ballon d’Or-winning 2022/23 campaign significantly hinges on his World Cup triumph, it’s conceivable that he might have a brief stint with a European club either preceding or succeeding the 2026 World Cup. This strategic move could render him eligible for the award in another potential title run.
The same rationale applies to Cristiano Ronaldo, who might contemplate a short-lived return to European football should Portugal emerge triumphant in the 2024 European Championship, thus positioning himself for another shot at the prestigious accolade.