Not everyone thinks Lionel Messi is the best footballer in the world. In fact, some people don’t even have him in the top five.
The Barcelona superstar was crowned the best player on earth when he won a record sixth Ballon d’Or in Paris this week, finishing ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk (second) and longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo (third).
Once a shortlist of 30 players eligible to win the award is compiled by the team at prestigious publication France Football, a jury of reporters representing a host of footballing nations is put together. Each journalist gets to vote for their top five — based purely on players’ output in the 2019 calendar year — and this year the award for most outlandish wishlist goes to Hafiz Marikar of Sri Lanka.
As revealed on Twitter by football writer James Nalton, Marikar snubbed Messi altogether — and Ronaldo too — and instead claimed Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was deserving of the Ballon d’Or.
The England international is a fine player, no doubt, but he’s not even the best player at Liverpool or in his national team. Really, he’d be fortunate to be considered among the five best players for club or country, and he’s certainly nowhere near the top echelon of the best handful of stars on the planet.
He finished 18th in the 30-man pecking order once all the votes were tallied — 17 places below where Marikar thought he ought to be.
Amazingly, Marikar didn’t include any of the top three in his list of five, instead going for Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in second and Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann in third.
He also opted for Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski in fourth and Nou Camp keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in fifth.
Lewandowski — who came eighth — was the only one of Marikar’s picks to make the official top 10 — some 642 votes behind winner Messi.
And as Nalton revealed, this isn’t the first time Marikar has gone rogue. His votes in 2017 and 2018 were just as bizarre.
Two years ago he gave Italian centre-back Leonardo Bonucci top billing, only for the defender to finish 21st. Goalkeeper David de Gea was second on his list but 20th in the official results — swing and a miss.
It was the same story last year when Marikar had Eden Hazard first (he finished eighth), Roberto Firmino second (19th) and Paul Pogba third (15th).
Messi never even made an appearance in the Sri Lankan’s lists.
For The Win’s Nate Scott put it well when he wrote: “This is a spectacular world of magical thinking.
“We’re really just here to stand and applaud Hafitz Marikar, who is either living in an alternate reality or is one sane man in an insane world.”
The Twittersphere could barely believe Marikar’s picks and there was no shortage of memes and comments making light of his incredulous voting method, but there were also plenty of other notable mentions in the category for most bizarre Ballon d’Or votes of 2019.
Some judges — like the Serbian who included countryman Dusan Tadic in his top five only for him to finish 20th — were particularly nationalistic, some put goalkeepers at the head of their list and others showed their affinity for one club, like Liverpool, with certain judges awarding all of their allocated spots to Red players.
With The Sun