Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been asked to pick between star striker Erling Haaland and his beloved former player Lionel Messi for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
Haaland and Messi are the frontrunners for the award following their astounding 2022/23 seasons. The former led Man City to the treble by scoring 52 goals in 53 games, while the latter cemented his status as arguably the greatest player of all time with his talismanic heroics on Argentina’s way to winning the FIFA World Cup.
While Haaland is aiming to take home his first Ballon d’Or, Messi is on the hunt for a record eighth. Barcelona-based outlet SPORT released an article earlier this week claiming that the Inter Miami forward will be successful, but deleted it soon after publication.
With the ceremony just around the corner, Guardiola was quizzed on who he thinks should win the award between two of his all-time favourite players.
“The Ballon d’Or should be two sections – one for Messi, and one for the other players,” he said at a press conference on Friday.
“Haaland should win, yes, we won the treble and he scored 50, I don’t know, million goals. But of course, if you tell me the worst Messi season? That’s the best for the rest of the players. Both deserve it, what can I say?
“Egotistically I would say Erling because he helped us achieve what we achieved. I would love it. But if Leo wins, they won the World Cup. It’s nice so many players from Man City will be there for the first time in many years and challenging. That makes us so proud.”
Messi played under Guardiola at Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, winning the Ballon d’Or three times in that span, but has moved onto a new venture for the twilight of his career after joining Inter Miami.
His influence in Florida has been stark, with Miami’s record noticeably better with Messi in the side as opposed to when he’s been out injured. The 36-year-old was also the driving force behind the Herons’ successful Leagues Cup campaign – the franchise’s first ever trophy – and they were also beaten finalists in the US Open Cup.