FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has claimed Lionel Messi is the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or.
Messi has emerged as a prime contender for the coveted individual award after he played a starring role in Argentina's Copa America title triumph.
The Argentine was also impressive for Barcelona in the 2020/21 season, though the Catalan outfit finished their campaign on a disappointing note after failing to win the La Liga title.
Messi is currently a free agent after his contract with Barcelona expired at the end of June. But, the 34-year-old is expected to stay at Barcelona, with multiple reports claiming he has agreed a new deal with the Catalan outfit.
And, Koeman insists Messi is 'vitally important' for Barcelona and believes he is the prime candidate for the Ballon d'Or.
"He is vitally important. For what he brings to the team, he’s the captain and an example. His goalscoring has been brilliant despite a difficult start. He has shown time and again he is the best in the world," Koeman told Barcelona's official website.
"I know how much he wanted to win the Copa América and he has done it at last. Messi is the prime candidate for the Balon d’Or after a great season and for me he is the favourite."