Lionel Messi: Ballon d'Or 'theft' that robbed Andres Iniesta and Wesley Sneijder in 2010

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Lionel Messi has won more Ballon d'Or trophies than any other footballer in history.

When the Barcelona superstar's name was read out instead of Virgil van Dijk at the 2019 ceremony, the Argentine moved clear of his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo with his sixth golden trophy.

It's an astonishing haul that could be crucial in the GOAT debate when Messi hangs up his boots, particularly when it comes to drawing a line under the perpetual debate against Ronaldo.

2010 Ballon d'Or

However, those who lived through Messi's era of Ballon d'Or dominance will know that his six triumphs didn't come without controversy - and none more so than the second in his collection.

It's now been over 10 years since Messi won the Ballon d'Or for the second year in a row, moving halfway through the longest period of dominance in the history of the coveted individual prize.

It was also a notable year for Messi's club, Barcelona, because all three nominees hailed from Camp Nou with Xavi and Andres Iniesta competing for France Football's top male accolade.

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'Ballon d'Or theft'

In the end, though, the two Spanish midfielders had to pose beside their free-scoring teammate as he won 22.65% of the vote whereas they had to settle for 17.36% and 16.48% respectively.

It was the first year that the Ballon d'Or merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year, meaning that journalists' were joined by the opinions of national coaches and captains.

But in the opinion of many, too many cooks spoiled the broth because the 2010 Ballon d'Or was retrospectively branded a 'theft' by Spanish newspaper Marca on its anniversary this week. 

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Apology for Iniesta

The decision to award Messi the top prize ahead of Iniesta is now being viewed as a controversial move and so much so that France Football later apologised that he never collected the gong.

"Forgive us, Andres," their editor Pascal Ferre wrote in 2018. "For us, he wasn't just a player, he was the player. His sacrifices for the team ultimately deprived him of greater individual recognition.

"Of all the absences on the list of Ballon d'Or winners, his is particularly painful. We can only hope he has a special campaign at the World Cup in Russia and repair this democratic anomaly."

Besides, lest we forget that Iniesta was one of the best players at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, scoring the winning goal in the final and bagging the La Liga crown with Barcelona for good measure.

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Let's face it, Iniesta going his entire career without winning a Ballon d'Or trophy is a tough pill to swallow and I think we can all agree that Iniesta's most deserving year was indeed 2010.

What about Sneijder?

However, Iniesta isn't alone in having an outside claim for the trophy that eventually wound up at Messi's feet with many supporters feeling that Wesley Sneijder should have been given the nod.

If anything, Sneijder probably has a better case than Iniesta having won the Champions League, Coppa Italia and Serie A with Inter Milan, before finishing the World Cup as joint-top scorer.

But in the end, rightfully or wrongly, Messi bagged the big prize on the night with a clear majority in the vote and you know what they say about those who make history... sorry, Andres and Wesley.

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