Lionel Messi’s mother, Celia Cuccittini, has admitted that she did not see her son winning another Ballon d’Or during his career after picking up his fifth in 2015.
The Barcelona ace, however, beat Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane to the coveted individual prize on Monday, setting a new record for winning the trophy ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who remains on five.
And, despite the staggering individual heights that the 32-year-old continues to reach, even his family did not necessarily see him being named as the world’s best player again.
“I’m super happy, we did not expect to win the prize. We thought that the fifth would be the last, so this was a beautiful surprise,” she confessed on CNN Radio Argentina.
“He always excites me. He does not stop surprising us every day with what he achieves. And, on top of that, what a person he is, which is the main thing.”
Despite the latest individual gong Messi remains a somewhat divisive figure in his homeland, where some critics point to the disappointing performance of the national team as an indictment of where his priorities lie.
While Celia accepts that it is inevitable that no-one is perfect, she feels that the continued criticism that Messi is singled out for is unjust and delivered in the wrong way.
“You can criticise without offending or without making fun,” she said. “And as a mother that obviously hurts.
“Obviously not everyone has to like him. The whole family already knows that we owe Argentina a debt. But who more than Lionel wants to win a World Cup or a Copa America?
“Of course it can be said when he plays badly. We do it ourselves. We tell him, I tell him.”
Messi, who has nine goals and five assists in nine Primera Division outings so far in what has been an injury-interrupted season, will have another opportunity for international success next summer in the 2020 Copa America, which Argentina and Colombia will host.
Argentina have been placed in a group with Australia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay, with the top four advancing to the knockout stage.