Manchester United icon Gary Neville has stated that Lionel Messi is his pick for the World Cup Golden Ball, despite Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann’s impressive performances in Qatar. Argentina and France will meet in the final at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, where the best player of the tournament will also be named after the winner is crowned.
Messi and Mbappe also lead the race for the Golden Boot, with both Paris Saint-Germain stars on five goals each, and are the favourites to win the Golden Ball with Griezmann behind in third. Mbappe will be hoping to upstage his club-mate in the final to win all of the accolades available for outfield players, but Neville believes that the 35-year-old will claim the prize for best player in Qatar.
“I am going to say Messi [for the Golden Ball],” Neville told Sky Sports. “Because I think Mbappe is in a far better team than Messi, I think the players around Mbappe, there’s some great players around him whereas Messi, if you look at the players he has got around him, don’t get me wrong they are a good standard but…
“I took a picture actually at the end of the game on Tuesday night, Argentina vs Croatia, and it was like the last five minutes and there were 10 Argentinian players camped at the edge of their box, and Messi was stood up front on his own. It almost summed up Argentina really.”
Messi’s performance in the semi-final saw him score a goal and provide two assists for Julian Alvarez, as he twisted and turned Croatia star Josko Gvardiol to set up his nation’s third and seal their place in the final.
Viewers across the globe gushed over the PSG man’s performance, and BBC pundit Alan Shearer believes that victory on Sunday would cement his place as the greatest footballer of all time.
“Would it put an end to the debate of [Diego] Maradona or Messi? We said if Messi wins the World Cup here, it might have to be him,” Shearer told Radio 5 Live. “That’s been the difference, that has been the splitting point. Maradona has won the World Cup. If Messi were to win it here, my view would change.
“Argentina are in the final because of Messi. Everyone looks to him. He doesn’t work as hard as he once did, and he might not be as quick as he once was all those years ago.
“But he has still got that magic, that ability to twist and turn and run with the ball and go past those defenders with ease. He can make the very best look ridiculously average at times.”