Javier Mascherano has mused that Lionel Messi ‘doesn’t need the Ballon d’Or to be happy’, as he reflects also on Victor Valdes’ absence.
Messi is seen as in contention to make the cut in voting for FIFA and France Football’s annual award, when the 23-man shortlist is dropped to a final three.
However, it is believed that Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery represent very strong competition this year to break Messi’s four-year winning streak for the award.
If the Argentine does not pick up the trophy for a fifth year in a row, his compatriot and Barcelona teammate does not see it as the end of the world.
“Leo does not need a Ballon d’Or to be happy. He has too many reasons and motivations in life that make him happy,” Mascherano has considered to reporters today.
“Life is not just football, there are many things around us and Leo can enjoy those. Then, for the Ballon d’Or, I don’t think you can take just the last month, month-and-a-half. This award is given for the whole year.
“To me it would not change my opinion on who deserves it but I do not have a vote. Hopefully he can win because he is a friend and an Argentine and we want him to represent us.
“If I was one of those able to change my vote now, I wouldn’t, things cannot have changed inside two weeks.
“Messi’s injury? It is not for me to say whether Messi has played too many games, perhaps now he can rest assured that he can start over. And I have not even had a vote, so…”
Barcelona head into their remaining fixtures of the calendar year without Messi and Victor Valdes available, as the goalkeeper has joined the forward on the sidelines with a calf injury.
“The injuries to Victor and Leo are significant but all the players we have can play. The squad is great. Valdes is important for what he represents and the excellent level he has been at up until now.
“We must support Pinto, who has always responded when he has been needed. He is a very experienced goalkeeper.
“We cannot forget that Pinto has won two Copas del Rey and has produced some very good performances.”
Valdes is also on his way out of the club come June and by the time he returns to the starting line-up at the Camp Nou he may have announced where his next destination is.
“When whoever does arrive [to replace Valdes], if anyone does, they will have the pressure of playing for a club like this. They will also have to fight for their place and third, comparisons will be odious.
“You cannot compare any goalkeeper to Victor. Victor has grown up here, he knows the club, he knows what it means to be a ‘keeper here and for his form he is perhaps even more valued.
“We have seen Victor produce some great displays. We do not have to appreciate him because he is leaving, but because he has been spectacular. And whoever comes, we will help.”