Guardiola says Messi and Haaland both deserve to win Ballon d'Or
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland both deserve to win this year's Ballon d'Or award for the world's best soccer player.
Messi, a seven-time winner of the sport's biggest individual honor, fulfilled his life's ambition by leading Argentina to victory at last year's World Cup.
Haaland led City to a treble of trophies, including the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup titles in his first year at the club, scoring 52 goals.
Guardiola, who coached Messi at Barcelona and repeatedly described him as the greatest player of all time, believes it is impossible to separate the two when the Ballon d'Or winner is announced on Oct. 30.
“I always said that the Ballon d’Or had to be of two sections — one for Messi and one for the others," the City manager said Friday. “Haaland should win. We won the treble because he scored 52 goals but, of course, Messi — his worst season is the best of most players. Both deserve it.
“Egotistically, I would say I want Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved, I would love it, but I won’t tell you it’s unfair if Leo wins."
Messi left European soccer at the end of last season to join MLS side Inter Miami. He quickly led the team to its first trophy, the Leagues Cup.
Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d'Or voting, sharing 12 awards between them since 2008.
Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe are widely expected to take over as soccer's biggest icons as Messi and Ronaldo enter the latter stages of their careers.
Mbappe has won the World Cup with France, but is yet to lift the Ballon d'Or or Champions League trophy.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer