Lionel Messi has revealed that he would vote for Paris Saint-Germain team-mates Neymar or Kylian Mbappe for the Ballon d’Or, despite being the leading favourite to win the award for a seventh time.
The prestigious prize – given to the best footballer of the preceding year – returns this year having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, France Football’s 30-player shortlist for the men’s award was leaked and no fewer than four stars from the French giants were nominated for the gong.
They included Messi, Neymar, Mbappe and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, while 14 players from the Premier League also made the shortlist.
Messi, 34, is the favourite to scoop the top prize, leading ahead of the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho in the bookmakers’ odds.
However, the Argentine has admitted that he would vote for his new team-mates Mbappe and Neymar, despite the fact that the pair have not won any major trophy in the past year.
‘Obviously I have two players in my team that I would vote for, Ney and Kylian,’ Messi told L’Equipe via RMC Sport.
Despite his clear allegiance to Neymar and Mbappe, Messi conceded that Lewandowski and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema have enjoyed good seasons individually, while pointing out the importance of winning major trophies.
‘Afterwards, there are players at the individual level who have had a great season, like Lewandowski, Benzema,’ he added. ‘But it’s hard to say because what you have done at the collective level means a lot to win the Golden Ball.
‘Lately, the titles have a lot of weight, if you won the Champions League, the Euro, the Copa America.
‘I think in previous years, we looked more for the player of the year, the best player. But now the titles also have a lot of weight.’
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho may not boast the goalscoring numbers of Messi, Lewandowski and Benzema, but his integral role in helping the Blues win the Champions League and Italy win the Euros sees him among the top contenders.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo has also been shortlisted for the award, although the Portuguese superstar – who owns five Ballon d’Ors – is not among the bookmakers’ favourites for the prize.