Every player Lionel Messi has voted for in the Ballon d’Or & FIFA ‘The Best’: Ronaldo, Modric…
Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record eight times – three more than his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo. But who does the man himself believe ought to have won the most prestigious individual accolade in football?
The Argentinian voted in the Ballon d’Or awards from 2011 to 2015 and since then has voted in FIFA’s The Best award, which took a different path from France Football’s historic award.
Here’s every player that Messi has voted for to win the Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards.
Xavi Hernandez (2011, 2012, 2013)
The legendary midfielder received Messi’s first-place vote after Barcelona’s Champions League victory of 2011 before getting the second-place vote in the following couple of years.
Xavi tried hard to bring his old team-mate back to Barcelona in the summer, but Messi ended up going to Inter Miami instead.
Andres Iniesta (2011, 2013, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
“I always picture him with the ball at his feet,” Messi explained in The Artist: Being Iniesta.
“That’s the way I have got used to seeing him. He does everything well, with simplicity. At times, it may look like he’s not doing anything, but in fact he’s doing it all.
“Everything is different with Andres. The hardest thing to do in football is to make it look like everything is easy, effortless, and that’s Andres.”
No wonder he voted for him every year in which they were team-mates at Barcelona – including first-place picks in 2012 and 2013.
Sergio Aguero (2011, 2012)
Messi is the godfather to Aguero’s son Benjamin – so no wonder he voted for the striker twice. From their time together in the Argentina youth ranks, the pair have shared a very close bond.
Aguero received Messi’s third-place vote during his first couple of years at Manchester City.
Despite being one of the most prolific goalscorers of his generation, Aguero never made it onto the Ballon d’Or podium. His highest-placing was 17th in 2012, the year in which he scored that unforgettable title-clincher against QPR.
Messi on Aguero’s shoulder, recreating that iconic Maradona photo. The beautiful game. pic.twitter.com/h47jS7PyZw
— Mehul Gupta 🏆🏆🏆 (@mehulg10) December 18, 2022
Neymar (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022)
Tying Iniesta for the most votes from Messi is Neymar – who was his close mate’s No.1 pick in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The South American duo shared the pitch on no fewer than 206 games for Barcelona and PSG. Neymar has assisted 40 of Messi’s career goals and Messi has returned the favour by setting up 27 for the Brazilian.
Neymar has a chance to go out in front as Messi’s most-voted for player in FIFA’s The Best award in 2023, although it wouldn’t be a shock to see him go for his World Cup-winning Argentina team-mates this time around.
Angel Di Maria (2014)
“The best thing that happened in my career is that I played with Leo Messi in the national team and club,” Di Maria told TV Publica Argentina earlier this year.
“I participated with him for a year in the club and did not play. I knew that if he came I would not play much. I told my wife and Paredes that I would not play anymore, but to be with him for a year and train with him for a year and see him every day is the best thing that will happen to me. I think this is the most important thing.”
Messi clearly appreciates Di Maria, too. He voted for his Argentina team-mate in first place while he was miserable in Manchester.
Earlier that year the winger had been outstanding in Real Madrid’s La Decima Champions League victory and was a key player in Argentina’s run to the World Cup final, but he was sidelined for the defeat to Germany.
Having been just as pivotal in Argentina’s 2022 World Cup triumph, don’t be surprised if Messi votes for Di Maria again this year.
Javier Mascherano (2014)
The former Liverpool and Barcelona was so dedicated to delivering glory for Argentina at the 2014 World Cup that he tore his anus making a last-ditch tackle.
A Ballon d’Or vote (3rd place) was the least Messi could do in return.
Then England boss Roy Hodgson famously voted for Mascherano in first place that year, leaving out Messi and Ronaldo entirely for Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer. Ever the pragmatist.
Luis Suarez (2015, 2016, 2017)
The most deadly combination in the history of football.
They played 258 games together for Barcelona, directly combining for 99 goals (56 Messi goals assisted by Suarez, 43 Suarez goals assisted by Messi).
“You deserve to be able to depart like who you are: one of the most important players in the history of the club,” Messi posted on Instagram following Suarez’s move to Atletico Madrid in 2020.
“You won many things as part of a group and individually. They should not kick you out as they have done.
“But the truth is that nothing surprises me anymore.”
Oof. Suarez had received Messi’s first-place vote in three successive years. No wonder he was p*ssed off.
Luka Modric (2018)
Messi had always voted for his team-mates, but 2018 was a notable change of tack – he voted for three players he’d never played with before, including two notable rivals.
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric ended the Messi-Ronaldo Ballon d’Or duopoly in 2018 after winning the Champions League and making the World Cup final – the only time that Messi’s first choice won the award, although technically he voted in FIFA’s The Best, which was also won by Modric.
But the Croatian himself saw it as a sign of disrespect that neither Messi nor Ronaldo attended the ceremony.
“I cannot say why someone did not attend – that’s their choice,” Modric said. “That is logical, is it not?
“It turns out these choices and trophies only have value when they get them.
“It is not fair to their playing colleagues, or to the voters who have nominated them for the past 10 years – nor for football or supporters.”
Kylian Mbappe (2018, 2020, 2021, 2022)
The PSG forward surprisingly failed to make the podium after shining in France’s World Cup win in Russia – but he received Messi’s second-place vote.
Messi also voted for Mbappe in second place on 2020, and while they were team-mates in 2021 and 2022.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2018, 2019)
Messi and Ronaldo not voting for one another was always an amusingly awkward running theme of their years of dominance.
That changed in 2018 when Messi voted for Ronaldo in third place, following his move away from Real Madrid. The Portuguese superstar ended up runner-up to Modric that year.
The following year Messi gave his eternal rival his second-place vote. Ronaldo eventually voted for Messi in return – second place in 2020.
Cristiano Ronaldo liked and laughed in the comments on a video criticizing Messi's eighth Ballon d'Or.
The journalist said that Messi scored six penalties in the World Cup, and should have five Ballon d'Ors, arguing that he took one from Haaland, Lewandowski, and Xavi/Iniesta. pic.twitter.com/Mif97wAj9p
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 31, 2023
Sadio Mane (2019)
Virgil van Dijk pushed Messi close for the 2019 Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards – but Messi looked elsewhere and decided Mane was Liverpool’s main man when they won the Champions League that year.
“It’s a great compliment when Messi votes for you. If you look at where I’ve come from, it shows I’ve come quite far,” Mane responded.
“All I can say [to kids] is to keep working hard and go for your dream.”
Frenkie De Jong (2019)
A somewhat surprising choice, given that Messi never voted for Sergio Busquets. The Dutch midfielder evidently made a big impression during his early months in Barcelona, receiving his captain’s third-place vote.
That year De Jong made quite the name for himself, starring in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals before earning his big move to the Camp Nou.
Robert Lewandowski (2020)
“I would like to mention Robert Lewandowski, it’s been a real honour to compete with you,” Messi said after collecting the 2021 Ballon d’Or trophy.
“Everyone knows and we agree that you were the winner last year.
“I think France Football should award you your 2020 Ballon d’Or – you deserve it and you should have it at home.”
The 2020 Ballon d’Or was cancelled following the coronavirus-hit season – in which Lewandowski was the only possible winner, having scored 55 goals in Bayern Munich’s historic treble win.
Lewandowski did pick up the FIFA Best Award that year, in which Messi played a small role by voting him first place.
Karim Benzema (2021, 2022)
The Frenchman won both the Ballon d’Or in 2022 after the best year of his career – where he scored 44 goals as Real Madrid claimed both La Liga and the Champions League.
But he missed out on FIFA’s The Best award, which was won by Messi due to the selection criteria also including the World Cup.
Messi voted for Benzema as his third-choice pick, having also done so the year before.