Football: Messi to finish career at Barcelona

Lionel Messi poses with his trophy after receiving the 2015 Fifa Ballon d’Or award for player of the year.
Lionel Messi poses with his trophy after receiving the 2015 Fifa Ballon d’Or award for player of the year. PHOTO: AFP

After clinching fifth World Player award, he commits himself to being a one-club player

ZURICH • Barcelona star Lionel Messi won a record fifth Fifa Ballon d'Or award for the world's best player at a ceremony on Monday, renewing arguments that he is the greatest ever.

What looks increasingly certain is that he will not be taking his talents to the English Premier League, even as speculation that he could link up with Pep Guardiola again at Manchester City heats up.

On the way out of the Kongresshaus in Zurich, carrying the Ballon d'Or, Messi dashed the hopes of his English suitors by confirming that his intention is to see out his glorious career in Barcelona.

"I want to finish my career at home - and my home is Barca," the Argentina captain said. "My intention is to finish my career where I started it, in Barcelona."

The end, of course, is nowhere near. Messi is only 28 and, after a difficult year or two, at least by his standards, and a couple of niggling injuries that left him restricted and then sidelined, talk of a decline has been emphatically rebuffed.

SIMPLY THE BEST

The Fifa Ballon d'Or winner is the greatest footballer to ever play the game.

GARY LINEKER, former England striker, now TV pundit.

In 2015, he scored 52 goals in 61 appearances for club and country, but with Messi it is never just about the strike rate. It is about the all-round contribution, which, alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez in that Barcelona forward line, has been mesmerising.

"The best in the world #genius," former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said on his Instagram page. "The best ever? I think so."

Former England striker-turned-pundit Gary Lineker agreed, tweeting: "The Fifa Ballon d'Or winner is the greatest footballer to ever play the game."

Others will bestow that honour to Brazil legend Pele, especially if Messi retires without lifting the World Cup.

STAYING PUT

I want to finish my career at home - and my home is Barca. My intention is to finish my career where I started it, in Barcelona.

LIONEL MESSI, on his plans.

But Messi's continues to add to his glittering CV. He was the star player as Barcelona won the treble of Champions League, La Liga and Spanish Cup last season, before also adding the Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Why would he want to be anywhere else than the Nou Camp?

At Barcelona he has the sunshine, the lifestyle and a brilliant team which has been built around him, to optimise his supreme talent.

Football-wise and otherwise, it is hard to see what could possibly entice him to the Premier

LEFT'S JUST RIGHT

His left foot is very good. I'd like to have that.

CRISTIANO RONALDO, on Messi.

League now that his post-Guardiola disillusionment at Barcelona has been eased under Luis Enrique.

Broadly speaking, the world's best players are concentrated at the top end of La Liga.

HARD TO KEEP UP

I don't know if I think I'm up to their level. These are two idols and if you have idols it's very difficult to perceive yourself as an equal or better than them.

NEYMAR, the third nominee for the Ballon d'Or award, on Messi and Ronaldo.

Indeed, La Liga dominated the Fifa Team of the Year with only three of the 11 players not based in Spain - Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.

In other words, the Premier League was not represented.

At times in recent years, La Liga has, like the Ballon d'Or, felt like a duel between Messi and Ronaldo.

The award has been shared exclusively between Messi and Ronaldo since Brazilian Kaka won in 2007. The Real forward was the winner in 2013 and 2014, but that now looks like a brief interruption to Messi's domination.

"It's a very proud moment after watching Cristiano win for the previous two years," said Messi.

Neymar came third in the vote by national team coaches and captains, and journalists.

  • MESSI'S 2015 IN NUMBERS

  • 5

    Trophies won

    52

    Goals scored

    26

    Assists created

    6

    Netted in all six competitions he played in for Barcelona

    35

    Scored in 35 matches. Whenever Messi scored, his team never lost

    2

    Led Argentina to second place in the Copa America, losing on penalties to Chile

"I don't know if I think I'm up to their level. These are two idols and if you have idols it's very difficult to perceive yourself as an equal or better than them," said the Brazilian.

Even Ronaldo showed admiration for his greatest rival moments before falling 3-5 behind Messi in the world player of the year awards count.

Said the Portuguese: "His left foot is very good. I'd like to have that."

So would any club in the world, but it will remain in Barcelona.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'MESSI TO FINISH AT BARCA'. Print Edition | Subscribe