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Lionel Messi or Erling Haaland should win Ballon d'Or, says Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola jokes Ballon d'Or should have one category for Lionel Messi and one for everyone else ahead of 2023 winner announcement on October 30; Guardiola tips Erling Haaland for award after scoring 52 times in debut season for Manchester City

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola jokes that Lionel Messi needs his own Ballon d'Or section but admits he'd love Erling Haaland to win the award after the Norwegian helped fire Pep's side to an historic treble.

"There should be one Ballon d'Or for Lionel Messi and one for everyone else", Pep Guardiola joked before endorsing his former player and Erling Haaland for the award.

Messi recorded some of the best years of his club career when the two worked together at Barcelona from 2008 to 2012, and the forward lifted the World Cup as Argentina captain in Qatar last December.

Meanwhile Haaland scored 52 goals in 53 games in his debut season at the Etihad after joining from Dortmund in the summer of 2022, as he helped City record a historic treble under Guardiola's leadership.

Laughing, the City boss said: "The Ballon d'Or should be two sections - one for Messi, and one for the other players."

He added: "Haaland should win, yes, we won the treble and he scored 50, I don't know, million goals. But of course, if you tell me the worst Messi season? That's the best for the rest of the players. Both deserve it, what can I say?

"Egotistically I would say Erling because he helped us achieve what we achieved. I would love it. But if Leo wins, they won the World Cup. It's nice so many players from Man City will be there for the first time in many years and challenging. That makes us so proud."

Guardiola's side, who have lost their last three games in all competitions, welcome back Rodri for the visit of Brighton on Saturday following a three-game suspension.

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The manager has repeatedly pointed to his midfielder's influence in explaining City's sudden drop in form, and took issue with the decision which saw him banned when asked whether opponents may attempt to rile him in future.

"He's so important," he said. "He will learn [from his red card]. There is two fouls for Rodri, where the referee didn't apply the rules. Without that, he's not sent off. It's scandalous the foul he got, and they were not punished.

"After that, Rodri has to learn. Even the mistakes we do and they do, we have to control emotions, stand up and go. But I'm pretty sure he will learn."

City will have John Stones fit again after playing more than an hour in England's win over Italy on Tuesday night.

Guardiola said he had been "concerned" about the 29-year-old's involvement in Gareth Southgate's latest international squad after featuring for just 22 minutes in the Premier League this season due to a thigh injury, but praised the communication between the Football Association and City hierarchy in returning him to the Etihad in good health.

"We spoke with Gareth, we have an incredible relationship," he said. "We were concerned because John didn't play one minute in the last two months and when they are only just recovering and go the national team you never know what is going to happen.

"John has been an important figure for us, especially last season, and we couldn't use him. It's perfect that he got minutes, but what happened if he got injured?

"They said they would take care of him, he wouldn't play 90 minutes, and they stuck to it.

"We want players to go to their national teams. It's perfect for them, they love to play for their countries and I've never said don't do it to them."

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