Premier League • England

Messi echoes Klopp claim when picking Ballon d’Or winner after Liverpool v Real Madrid decider

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema alongside Liverpool forwards Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah

Lionel Messi has “no doubts” who should win the 2022 Ballon d’Or after echoing the sentiments of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The Ballon d’Or is arguably the most prestigious individual accolade a footballer can win. Lionel Messi leads the way with an eye-watering seven to his name, two ahead of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The last Liverpool player to scoop the award was Michael Owen in 2001. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres finished third in 2005 and 2008 respectively, before Virgil van Dijk came close with a narrow second-placed finish in 2019.

Yet Liverpool’s memorable season has sparked talk of either Salah or Mane scooping the award. What’s more, Mane’s heroics with Senegal after securing World Cup qualification and winning the AFCON could aid his cause.

However, Jurgen Klopp previously admitted any player not named Messi or Ronaldo probably needs to win the Champions League to be considered.

“Wow! He plays an outstanding season, Sadio is an outstanding player,” said Klopp in April when asked specifically if Mane could win the Ballon d’Or.

“Historically you have to win something, I think, to win the Ballon d’Or most of the time.

“It was like this, that if you are not Messi or Ronaldo you have to win probably the Champions League.”

Messi picks Ballon d’Or winner

Unfortunately for the pair, it was Real Madrid who emerged on top in Paris last weekend.

As such, Messi has now picked a player from Real who he believes is a shoe-in to scoop the prize.

“I think there are no doubts this year,” he told the Argentine media (via the Liverpool Echo).

“It is very clear that [Karim] Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up victorious in the Champions League, being essential from the last 16 onwards in all the games.”

Benzema a worthy winner?

The award will not be dished out until October. However, with only minor international competitions taking place this summer, the heavy lifting on the players’ ends has already been done.

Benzema fired a post-Ronaldo Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double. The Frenchman produced the best form of his career with 44 goals and 15 assists across all competitions.

Salah finished the campaign with 31 strikes and laid on 16 assists. Mane, meanwhile, notched just 23 goals and five assists.

Furthermore, Benzema rose to the occasion when it mattered most. He rescued Real Madrid no fewer than three times when they faced elimination in the knockout rounds.

He bagged hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea before scoring three times over two legs against Manchester City.

Even the most ardent of Liverpool fans would not begrudge Benzema lifting the award in October.