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Lionel Messi becomes main contender for Ballon d’Or 2021



Photo via Imago

It’s Lionel Messi’s world and we are all just living in it.

While his contract situation at Barcelona may be attracting a lot of attention, the 34-year-old is laser-focused on winning his first-ever major silverware with the Argentina national team at Copa America 2021. And, that showed on Saturday, Messi single-handedly dismantled Ecuador, leading La Albiceleste to a 3-0 win and progression to the semi-finals of the tournament.

It was a Messi special from start to finish in Goiania as he first set up two goals for Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez before finding the back of the net with a stunning free-kick late in the game. He created as many as seven chances over the course of the contest against Ecuador.

Messi has now scored four goals in five games at Copa America 2021 – the most by any player so far in the tournament. The Argentina captain also has four assists – again the highest in the competition.

It also means that the 34-year-old has had a direct hand in eight of the ten goals his team have scored so far on their way to the semi-finals. He has also been named Man of the Match in four of the five games that La Albiceleste have played.

All this comes on the back of another exceptional season at club level with Barcelona. While it might have ended on a sour note, what with the Catalans finishing third in La Liga, Messi still managed to shine on a personal level, bagging 38 goals and setting up 14 more in 47 games across all competitions, including two goals in the final as Barca won the Copa del Rey.

In all, since the start of the 2020/21 season, Messi has played a total of 58 games for club and country combined, totaling up to around 5182 minutes. He has been subbed off just thrice in these many games and has missed just seven encounters for Barcelona during this period and none for Argentina.

Ballon d’Or #7 on the horizon?

Since the turn of the year, Messi has scored 33 goals and assisted 13 more for club and country combined. In comparison, Robert Lewandowski, one of his direct rivals for the Ballon d’Or 2021, has 38 direct goal involvements – eight fewer than the Barcelona skipper. Furthermore, the Bayern Munich forward endured a forgettable campaign in the UEFA Euro 2020 with Poland.

N’Golo Kante, another rival of Messi for the Ballon d’Or, enjoyed a fine season with Chelsea, winning the UEFA Champions League. But, like Lewandowski, the midfielder also had an underwhelming Euro as France crashed out at the Round of 16.

Meanwhile, Messi has emerged as the best player at Copa America 2021 as he takes Argentina closer to ending their 28-year trophy drought. And, should the little magician be able to achieve that over the next week, a seventh Ballon d’Or could very well be on the way, thanks to his excellent summer with the national team, reckons’s Muhammad Butt.

Up next for Messi and Argentina is a semi-final tie against Colombia who have underwhelmed for most of their Copa America campaign. Should they get past Los Cafeteros the winners of Brazil vs Peru await in the final.

Messi and Argentina have been here in the past. They have come close to fall at the final hurdle. But with the way that the 34-year-old is performing, do not bet against him taking his country all the way this time around.

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