Lionel Messi’s fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or triumph at the 2015 Gala received extensive coverage in newspapers around the world, not least in the three countries that had representatives on the shortlist for the biggest award of the night. While the Argentinian media heaped praise on the winner, their Portuguese counterparts focused on the handover from Cristiano Ronaldo to Messi, while the Brazilian press expressed its support for Neymar, they also hailed Wendell Lira, the winner of the FIFA Puskás Award for the goal of the year.
“LM5” was the headline chosen by Argentinian sports daily Olé on its front page, dedicated almost entirely to the Albiceleste No10. On its inside pages, the paper described Messi as “an era-defining player”. “There’s not a single market where you can buy enduring success and not a single marketing campaign that can create it,” it said. “Messi is the greatest of all realities, a reality so specific and extensive that it’s hard to recall such a dominant reign in world football. Leo is right there in the elite with Pele, (Alfredo) Di Stefano, (Johan) Cruyff, (Franz) Beckenbauer and (Diego) Maradona.”
For its part, La Nación described Messi as “a legend with five Ballons d’Ors” and recalled that in 2006, on his first appearance on the award shortlist, he finished 20th with a single vote to his name. Since then he has developed to such an extent that he has now won the accolade more times than any other player, leading the paper to talk of a “Messi empire.” “He’s ruled the planet for so long because he pursues the kind of intensity that has never been seen before. He always strives for more and pushes the boundaries. The genius doesn’t rest and the exceptional becomes a natural part of his routine. Resting on his laurels is boring to him. That’s why he gets better and better.”
Brazil thrills to Lira and Neymar
The picture of an emotional Wendell Lira receiving the Puskás Award took pride of place in the print editions of Brazil’s dailies, at the expense of Neymar. That did not stop former national team coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and Mexico FIFA World Cup 1970™ winner Tostao from praising the ex-Santos star, however, with both agreeing that the Barcelona man has what it takes to become “the best in the world before too long”, if he keeps developing.
Several papers also pointed out that Messi voted for Uruguay’s Luis Suarez as his Player of the Year.
As far as Folha de São Paulo was concerned, Neymar was the undisputed winner on the red carpet: “He showed that it is possible to rework a tradition that is these days restricted only to grooms, as long as it’s done with a sense of style.” One of the evening’s most commented outfits on social media was Paul Pogba’s suit, which was defined as “baroque” by the paper’s fashion expert.
Over in Portugal, O Correio da Manhã chose one of the most talked-about images from the Gala for its front page, publishing a photo of Cristiano greeting Messi’s wife Antonella Roccuzzo while the smiling Argentinian looked on. “CR7 hands the Ballon over to the Messis,” ran the headline. The newspaper also pointed out that Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz gave his vote for Player of the Year to the Argentinian.
Sports dailies A Bola, Record and O Jogo also devoted their attention to the handover of power from the Portugal No7 to the Argentina captain, while A Bola recalled the moment when Northern Irish actor and Gala host James Nesbitt asked Ronaldo to return to Manchester United.