Messi HaalandGetty

'I'm taking Erling Haaland!' - Alexi Lalas and Stuart Holden pit Man City star against Lionel Messi in heated Ballon d'Or debate

  • Haaland and Messi frontrunners for award
  • USMNT players debate winner
  • Ceremony takes place in October

WHAT HAPPENED? The former USMNT players heaped praise on both Messi and Haaland during an episode of Lalas' State of the Union podcast. However, they disagreed over who deserves to win football's top individual prize following the release of the Ballon d'Or shortlist earlier this week.

Article continues below

WHAT THEY SAID: Lalas was bullish on the fact that Haaland had had the better year overall, arguing: "I'd take Haaland. This is about the best player in this period of time, and how is it possible that given the opportunity to pick between Haaland and Messi, you're not taking the quote-unquote best player?" Holden initially agreed, before switching and deciding to back Messi for the Ballon d'Or: "You throw Messi into Man City, they're going to win everything and Messi's gonna score 50+ goals! I'm changing my mind, I'm taking Messi!"

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Most people agree that it's between the World Cup-winning Argentina captain and the Premier League Golden Boot winner for the award, but opinions are divided, as Lalas' podcast shows. ESPN's Craig Burley even advised the Man City striker to "never go back" to the "claptrap" awards if Messi is chosen as the winner. However, the seven-time Ballon d'Or champion's glorious World Cup 2022 campaign arguably puts him in the driving seat against Haaland, whose nation didn't even qualify for the tournament.


Erling Haaland Golden BootGettyImagemessi world cup(C)Getty Imagesmessi inter miami goal(C)Getty Images

WHAT NEXT IN THE BALLON D'OR RACE? Following the announcement of the players nominated for the prize, the Ballon d'Or 2023 is set to take place in Paris on October 30, meaning in just a few weeks' time we'll know who has been successful. Will it be Messi, Haaland, or another candidate altogether?