Somali national team manager Said Abdi Haibeh claims N’Golo Kante deserves to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or and not Lionel Messi.
Messi, 34, has emerged as one of the leading contenders to win the individual diadem as various of his rivals have fallen by the wayside after their countries crashed out of Euro 2020.
Although Barcelona endured a lacklustre 2020-21 campaign, the Argentina captain boasts of 33 goals and 13 assists in all competitions – which puts him in pole position to claim the prize for a record seventh time.
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Even at this, the Ocean Stars’ leading figure has a contrary opinion – insisting the France international is more deserving of the prize – notwithstanding Les Bleus’ Round of 16 defeat at Euro 2020.
Kante has impressed tremendously in the Chelsea midfield this season, and was named man of the match in both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and won the gong again in the final against Manchester City.
“One player who has been underestimated is N'Golo Kante whom I was very lucky to meet in 2019 in London,” Haibeh told Goal.
“He is a top player. There is a saying that goes ‘the world is covered 70 percent by water and the remaining 30 is covered by Kante.
“It was a quote made by Thomas Tuchel when he first saw him in training. He said two people are meant to be covering the space he was covering, and he was so pleased with him.
“To see him win the Premier League with Leicester City and heading for Chelsea to win the league is incredible.
“He also helped the French national team win the Fifa World Cup before going ahead to win the Champions League.
“Right now, I believe he is definitely the right man to win the award 100 percent in my opinion.”
Messi’s displays at the Copa America have been inspiring, having recorded three goals and three assists in his last two games.
As such, the 50-year-old thinks he could beat Kante to the Ballon d'Or if he can guide the Albiceleste to the title.
“I think he is also good enough to win the Ballon d’Or again now that he is playing for Argentina in Copa America. He helped the team qualify for the semi-final,” he continued.
“Although he had a difficult season in Barcelona, if he goes on to win Copa America, that will put him in pole position to win.”