Lionel Messi, who won a record-extending 8th Ballon d’Or, said he wanted to continue playing as long as possible but refused to “put a number on anything”, highlighting the changing landscape of the sport.
Lionel Messi won his 8th Ballon d’Or on Monday (Reuters Photo)
Lionel Messi is at the stage of his career when he is not looking at a long-term picture. His motto is to take it day by day. After winning a record 8th Ballon d’Or, the Argentina great said he is not thinking long-term at the moment, while adding that he would continue playing as long as he enjoys getting on the field every morning.
At 36, Messi beat Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, UEFA Player of the Year and treble winner, to win the prestigious prize for the first time in 2 years. Messi played a pivotal role in guiding Argentina to their first World Cup title in 36 years when they beat defending champions France in the final last year. Messi had a magical campaign in Qatar as he led the team from the front in an inspiring display of football.
After having faced several heartbreaks in major international tournaments in the past, Messi completed the Copa America and World Cup double in 2021-22.
The feeling of satisfaction was evident in Messi’s outlook at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Paris on Monday.
“Being a world champion was fantastic. I feel so calm right now with this prize. To be able to have the career I’ve had, and enjoy football as much as I have,” he added.
Despite not managing to recreate his success at Barcelona during his stint with PSG, Messi won the Ballon d’Or, thanks to his sensational World Cup campaign. Messi moved from PSG to sign a contract with Inter Miami as he began a new chapter in the United States.
“I am very happy to be at Inter Miami and find myself in the situation I’m in. I’m enjoying some different moments in life with my family,” he added.
When asked if he was thinking about the 2026 World Cup, Messi refused to commit.
“I don’t think about it. I’ll enjoy (my career) day by day. There will first be the Copa America in the United States (in 2024). (The World Cup), I don’t think about it,” the Argentina star told Reuters news agency.
Messi will be 39 by the time the tournament co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada rolls around.
Notably, Messi spoke before the final match of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and declared it to be his last World Cup game, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to end his World Cup journey in a final.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be going for, but I’m inclined to enjoy it. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, I want to keep enjoying [it]. I don’t how long [I will keep playing], as long as I am fit physically and can compete, I am going to keep doing it. I can’t put a number on anything because football changes so much from day to day. I wish it would be for a long time because it is what I know and love to do. So, I wish to keep going,” he added.