Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were more deserving of winning the 2021 Ballon d’Or award than Lionel Messi, according to Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos.
Messi won football’s top individual accolade for a record-extending seventh time on Monday largely thanks to his success at international level with Argentina.
The 34-year-old played a key part in Argentina’s Copa America success, contributing to nine of the 13 goals his side scored as he ended his long wait for an international trophy.
He has had a rather more mixed year at club level, having scored 28 goals in 29 games for Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in August.
Messi has netted just four times in his first 11 games for PSG, but he did enough to finish ahead of favourite Robert Lewandowski for his latest Ballon d’Or triumph.
Lewandowski finished second despite scoring 53 times in 42 games this year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues across all competitions.
Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third, followed by Benzema – who has 34 goals this year – in fourth and N’Golo Kante placed fifth.
Five-time winner Ronaldo finished sixth – the first time he has failed to make the top three in 11 years – but Kroos insists his former team-mate, as well as current colleague Benzema, have impressed more this year than Messi.
“[Messi’s] award is absolutely not deserved,” Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. “There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano, has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should’ve been others ahead of him.
“For me, Karim would have been the number one if you were really looking for the best individual player of the last year. I can see from close quarters what an outstanding footballer he is.
“When I see how many decisive goals Cristiano has scored lately – Manchester United are still in the Champions League thanks to him alone – then, in my eyes, Cristiano would have also come before Messi.”
Messi won the first of his seven Ballons d’Or in 2009 and now has two more than Ronaldo, with Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten next on the list with three each.
The PSG superstar’s latest success has caused plenty of debate, however, with legendary Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas also questioning the outcome of Monday’s vote.
“It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards,” he posted on his personal Twitter account.
“For me, Messi, he is one of the five best players in all of history, but you have to know how to list the most outstanding players in a season. It’s not that hard.”