Ernesto Valverde is shocked that Lionel Messi is not set to feature on the Ballon d’Or podium for the first time since 2006.
France Football will announce 2018’s winner of the prestigious individual award — given to the best player in the world over the course of the calendar year — on Monday.
The final three for the prize has not been revealed officially but it’s been leaked that Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann will compete for the honour.
Messi, 31, has won the Ballon d’Or five times, most recently in 2015. The Argentine helped Barca win a league and cup double earlier this year and has started the new campaign in fine form, with 15 goals already to his name.
“It surprises me as much as anyone else,” Valverde said in a news conference on Saturday ahead of this weekend’s league game against Villarreal at Camp Nou.
“Messi’s been named the best player in the Champions League this season after the first, second and fifth round of fixtures — and he didn’t play in the third and fourth games because he was injured.
That’s not us saying that, either, it’s [an award] picked by UEFA. It’s a little strange he is not in the running.”
FIFA The Best winner Modric, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid and reached the World Cup final with Croatia, is expected to win Ballon d’Or.
“To those that are among the final three, congratulations,” Valverde added. “Everyone is free to think what they want, but it is strange, yes [that Messi is not shortlisted].”
Messi will start against Villarreal on Sunday as Barca deal with a mini-injury crisis. Luis Suarez, Arthur Melo, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto are among the players sidelined for the fixture.