Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos and club legend Iker Casillas have led criticism of the decision to hand Lionel Messi this year’s Ballon d’Or, with the German claiming ‘it’s absolutely not deserved’.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward saw off competition from Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho to lift the seventh Ballon d’Or of his incredible career. 

Messi claimed a maiden Copa America title with his country during 2021 and was also top scorer in LaLiga for the 2020-21 season with 30 goals as Barcelona finished third.

The 34-year-old also helped Barca win the Copa del Rey before moving to PSG on a free transfer in the summer.

He had collected the honour for a record sixth time in 2019 – one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo – before the awards were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most were expecting the prize to go to Lewandowski after he maintained the incredible goal-scoring form that made him favourite for last year’s prize before it was scrapped. 

The Poland international, 33, finished second after scoring 38 goals in 30 league games for Bayern in 2021, in addition to winning the Bundesliga. 

And Kroos was fiercely critical of the decision to name Messi as the winner before also revealing who he voted for in his top three.

Speaking on his podcast, Kroos said: ‘It’s absolutely not deserved.