Earlier this week, Barcelona star Lionel Messi said that, even if he won a record fourth successive Ballon d’Or award, 2012 will not have been the best year of this career.
Messi was speaking as he and his fellow nominees for the award, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, were presented to the media ahead of Monday night’s gala awards ceremony in Zurich.
Despite his goal tally of 91, the lack of major trophies with Barcelona, such as the Champions League or Primera Division, means other years have been better, Messi claimed.
“This has not been my best year,” Messi said. “I am more interested in team awards than individual awards. There were other years when we won more trophies, so they were better.”
Ronaldo, who won the Ballon D’Or award in 2008, said he was relaxed about this year’s decision, as he had already won important trophies with Real Madrid this season.
“For me to be here with these great players makes me proud,” he said. “Honestly, I am relaxed. It is not a prize of life or death. If I do not win, it is not important, life goes on. We won La Liga and the Spanish Supercopa. I have achieved things no matter what happens today.”
Iniesta, a 2010 runner-up and bidding to become the first Spanish winner of the award since Luis Suarez in 1960, said just being on the three-man shortlist was “incredible” and “special”.
“(As a boy) you have the motivation to grow and to be the best, but you never think about being here,” Iniesta said. “It is incredible. To be here is special because there are many players of a great level. To be here with Cristiano and Leo already makes me happy.”
Both Ronaldo and Messi were asked whether their regular competition for individual awards led to any rivalry or frustration between them on a personal level.
“I do not feel frustrated,” Ronaldo said. “The opponents do their work, and I do mine. We try to do our own work. I do not feel much rivalry, at least not personally. Of course we are here to win, but there is no rivalry. It is just about the football – that is what counts.”
Messi added: “As (Ronaldo) said, we are not competing against each other. We play and want to win trophies. It is not a matter of me against him or vice versa. I want to play as good as I can for my team and keep on improving. That is it.”
As Portugal captain Ronaldo had a Ballon D’Or vote but said he was not able to use it as he had been injured around the time the ballots were cast, while Messi defended his decision to vote only for club or country colleagues.
“It would be nonsensical not to consider Cristiano one of the best in the world,” the Argentine captain said. “But I preferred to vote for Xavi (Hernandez), Iniesta and Kun (Aguero) as I am close to them.”