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Lionel Messi should have own Ballon d’Or category, says Guardiola

Pep Guardiola says Lionel Messi should have his own category at the Ballon d’Or but admitted the World Cup winner and Manchester City hotshot Erling Haaland would both be deserving winners of the prize.

Messi recently left Paris Saint Germain for Inter Miami and is favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for a record-extending eighth time after leading Argentina to World Cup glory last year.

Haaland could be his main rival after scoring 52 goals in 53 games to help City win the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season.

Guardiola knows the qualities of both players better than most, previously coaching Messi at Barcelona and currently managing Haaland with City.

“Always I said that the Ballon d’Or should be in two sections, one for Messi, and after look for the other one, so Haaland should win, yes,” Guardiola said on Friday.

“We won the treble because he scored 50 million goals but of course Messi, if you tell me the worst season for Messi is the best for the rest of the players. Both deserve it, so what can I say?”

Guardiola added, “Egotistically, I would say I want Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved, I would love it, but I won’t tell you it’s unfair if Leo wins.

“It’s nice that many players for Man City will be there for the first time in many years and challenging for these trophies. That makes us so proud for our organisation.”

City is hoping to get back to winning ways against Brighton on Saturday after losing its previous two league matches against Wolves and Arsenal.

City midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who has struggled for game time under Guardiola, this week admitted he needs to play more at club level as he seeks to retain his place in the England squad ahead of Euro 2024.

That has increased speculation he could leave in January and Guardiola did not rule out the possibility.

“The transfer window is over, now we are here together. When we need a game with transitions, Kalvin is perfect,” he said, “When there is something you need to do, there are still one or two players who can do it better. That’s the simple reason. He will be here until winter. After, I don’t know what will happen because nobody knows once the window is open.”

Guardiola admitted it was “so important” that Rodri can return this weekend after the influential Spain midfielder was badly missed during his three-match suspension following last month’s sending-off against Nottingham Forest.

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