Will Lionel Messi play in 2026 World Cup? Argentine legend opens up after winning eighth Ballon d'Or

Messi won the Ballon d'Or on the back of his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar

By AFP

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Lionel Messi (left) reacts on stage as his children look on at the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris. — AFP
Lionel Messi (left) reacts on stage as his children look on at the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris. — AFP

Published: Tue 31 Oct 2023, 12:18 PM

Lionel Messi said on Monday he was not thinking about his long-term future as he sought to enjoy winning the eighth Ballon d'Or of his storied career.

Messi, 36, succeeded Karim Benzema as winner of the prize, awarded on the back of his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar.


"The last one I won was also thanks to what we achieved with the Argentine national team in the Copa America (in 2021), but this one is much more special because it comes after we won the World Cup," Messi told various media including AFP after collecting his award at a ceremony in Paris.

"That is the trophy everyone wants to win the most, and it was a dream come true for me, my teammates and my country."


He dragged Argentina to a victory in Qatar that crowned his remarkable career and allowed him to see off stiff competition for the Ballon d'Or from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.

Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin De Bruyne in fourth place.

Former Barcelona superstar Messi scored seven times at the World Cup and was named the tournament's best player after Argentina beat France on penalties in the final in Doha.

Yet Messi, who won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009, also had an underwhelming final season at Paris Saint-Germain, before leaving to play for Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

He played down suggestions he could come back for another Ballon d'Or, possibly after the next World Cup in 2026, when he will be 39.

"I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day to day at the moment," he said.

"We have a Copa America coming up in the United States, where I am now, in which we are the holders, so I am looking forward to coming into that in good shape and then just see how I am getting on from there."

Messi admitted on his return to the French capital that his two-year stint at PSG had not turned out the way he imagined upon signing from Barcelona in 2021.

"Things didn't turn out as I hoped but I enjoyed the city a lot, and my kids liked it a lot and found it hard to leave," he said.

"It is a spectacular city and I was lucky to live here. Football-wise it did not go the way I hoped but I prefer to remember the many good things."

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