Everything about him made it clear to viewers that the trophy meant nothing to him at that moment. His head bowed, his sad expression, his blank stare: when Lionel Messi shook Manuel Neuer’s hand, a small world must have collapsed inside him. Neuer, even with a golden trophy in hand, was visibly sorry.
There are memes, photos with funny captions, from the subsequent official photo with Neuer and Messi. Below it is: “You see the best goalkeeper and the best player of the tournament – next to Lionel Messi.” The memes allude to the fact that Neuer actually deserved the Golden Ball as the best player in addition to the Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper. Messi’s award seemed like a consolation prize. A consolation for the lost World Cup final in 2014.The daily mirror app The latest news, background information and analyzes straight to your smartphone. Plus the digital newspaper. Download here for free.
In the last World Cup game of his career, the Argentinian superstar will do everything in his power to not just go home with another possible consolation prize in the final against France on Sunday (4 p.m.). The World Cup trophy would be like a lifetime achievement award for the 35-year-old multiple world footballer.
That the choice falls on Messi or France’s Kylian Mbappé is considered certain. They are the formative players of the World Cup, leading the list of top scorers at this tournament with five goals each.
Most recently, in 1994, a world champion was also the best player
The question arises beforehand as to how Fifa will decide: will the best player from the defeated finalist again receive the Golden Ball or this time will the best player from the world champion be knighted? A look at the winners of the past decades gives an idea of the answer.
The last time a world champion was named the most valuable player of the tournament, also known as MVP, was in 1994. It was the Brazilian Romario. This has only happened three times since the Golden Ball was first awarded in 1982. The Italian world champion Paolo Rossi won the trophy in the very first year, followed in 1986 by the Argentinian Diego Maradona.
However, four of the last five best players of the World Cup tournament lost the final. The 2010 winner, Uruguayan Diego Forlán, was the only winner so far not to make it to the final with his team.
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Croatian Luka Modric won the Golden Ball in 2018 and became world footballer in the same year. The best player of the French world champion, Antoine Griezmann, “only” received the Silver Shoe.
A trend can be identified based on the history of the award. By the way, Lionel Messi would be the first player to win the trophy for the second time. It is unlikely that if he should lose the final with his Argentines against France, he will go away completely empty-handed. However, the award of the Golden Ball after his last World Cup game would probably mean even less to him than it did eight years ago.