MADRID – Lionel Messi insisted his fifth-place finish in Monday’s Ballon d’Or awards was not a motivating factor behind his sensational performance in Barcelona’s 4-0 thrashing of local rivals Espanyol in La Liga on Saturday.
The Argentine forward scored two masterful free kicks, and created a goal for Ousmane Dembele among highlights in a bewitching individual display.
Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, did not make the podium for the first time in a decade, with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric given the trophy.
“No,” said Barca captain Messi to Movistar when asked if he had extra motivation for the game because of the awards snub.
“We all came out fired-up from the start, really focused and determined. We knew (we had to because of) the stadium we were coming to and the opponents we were facing, they are having a great season.”
Messi’s teammates praised him, disagreeing with his placement in the Ballon d’Or rankings and the words of Brazil legend Pele, who said the forward only has one foot and one skill.
“(Pele) must not be able to see very well if he said what he said about Messi,” Barcelona fullback Jordi Alba said.
“The Ballon d’Or is a lie. Leo is always the best in the world. It was not fair on Messi.
“There are a lot of campaigns coming from Madrid. If Cristiano (Ronaldo) had been in Madrid, maybe the media and the fans would have wanted him to win, but he left so, well, Modric.
“Modric is a great player and had a great season, he’s one of the best in the world, but number one is Messi.”
⬇️ List of players better than Messi 🐐 https://t.co/kFSrZ0868u— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 1, 2018
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who labelled the votes “absurd”, was also quick to praise his forward.
“What can I say about Leo? He shines in any game.
“To have him with us is infinitely fortunate, we’re in an unrepeatable era watching a player like him,” Valverde said.