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Ballon d’Or organisers explain Lionel Messi shorlist snub, defend Cristiano Ronaldo inclusion


Lionel Messi was excluded from the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist because of “new criteria” for the awarding of football’s most prestigious individual prize, according to event organisers France Football.

Seven-time winner Messi and his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar weren’t included when the list of candidates was released on Friday, but Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo earned a place.

The award is handed out annually, but for the first time this year the winner will be selected based on their form over the previous season, rather than the calendar year.

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Messi, who won the Ballon d’Or last year, departed Barcelona last summer to join PSG and won the Ligue 1 title in his first season in Paris.

But the 35-year-old scored just six league goals in 26 league games during a campaign hit by injury problems, resulting in the snub from France Football.

“Inevitably, Lionel Messi, with his 15 appearances in a row since 2006, his seven Ballon d’Or victories, his title holder status, weighs very heavily when it comes to the final choice,” France Football’s deputy editor-in-chief Emmanuel Bojan explained.

“The Argentinian was part of the discussions to integrate the 30, but the new criteria for the Ballon d’Or were unfavourable to him: disappearance of the criterion of a player’s entire career, and new periodicity, modelled on a season of football and no longer over a calendar year, which does not make it possible to integrate the Copa America of July 11, 2021.

“And then, it must be admitted that his first season in Paris was very disappointing both in terms of the visual impression and the statistics.”

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While Messi missed out, his long-time rival and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo earned a spot, despite a disappointing 2021/22 campaign for his club Manchester United.

The 37-year-old Portuguese star scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Red Devils on his return to Old Trafford, but they slumped to a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

When questioned on Ronaldo’s inclusion, Bojan said: “The statistics say the opposite.

“Ronaldo became the top scorer in national football this season [117 goals]. He was extremely decisive in the Champions League group stage with four off-the-cuff goals that gave Man Utd seven points.

“In the Premier League, he had 18 goals including two hat-tricks. In total, 32 goals in 49 matches is not as many as in his best seasons but enough to be among the 30 best players in the world.”

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is the favourite to land the award after scoring 44 goals to help his club win a Champions League and La Liga double last season.

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Five of his team-mates were also included on the shortlist: Thibaut Courtois, Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric, Casemiro and new arrival Antonio Rudiger, who joined on a free transfer from Chelsea this summer.

The Premier League is well represented, with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and new signing Darwin Nunez on the list, along with Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.

English champions Manchester City have Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and summer arrival Erling Haaland on the list.

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