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Lionel Messi sent "scandal" message amid Jorginho challenge for Ballon d'Or

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho has been tipped as a contender for the award but fellow Italian Antonio Cassano says it would be a "scandal" if bookies favourite and PSG star Messi were to be denied

Former Italy striker Antonio Cassano believes it would be a "scandal" if the 2021 Ballon d'Or went to Chelsea midfielder Jorginho ahead of Lionel Messi.

Messi is the bookies favourite to pick up the annual award but Jorginho has had quite the year too, picking up winners medals for both the Champions League and European Championships.

The Blues' playmaker was superb for club and country in their respective runs, although Cassano says now-Paris Saint-Germain star Messi should "always" claim the accolade.

The Ballon d'Or has been given to Messi six times already and the Argentine is the current holder of the award, which has not been handed out since 2019.

Cassano was speaking to fellow former Italian striker Christian Vieri on his Twitch channel and asked him: "Remember when I said any journalist who voted for Jorginho as Ballon d’Or should have his licence taken away?

"Well, I was in Formentera with my family and just as I sat down, I felt a touch. ‘Antonio, you’re great!’ the voice says. I turn around to ask who he was, he took off his glasses and mask, and it was Jorginho!"

The ex-Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan hitman then revealed: "I told him, Jorgi, can you believe the scandal if they should give you the Ballon d’Or and not to Messi?

"He replied that he absolutely agreed with me, Messi should always win it."

However, the "exceptional" Jorginho took the 39-year-old's comments well.

"Now I admire Jorginho even more. We were talking for a good 90 minutes," Cassano said.

"He is an exceptional guy, very intelligent, humble and polite."

On potentially winning the coveted award, which has been running since 1956, Jorginho told SporTV : "We all have dreams.

"But, I'll be honest, it depends on the criteria that the decision is based on.

"If we're talking about talent then I know I'm not the best in the world. But if it's going on titles, then nobody has won more than I have this season," the Brazil-born man stated.

"How could I compare myself to Messi, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo?

"They've got completely different characteristics to me. But, I repeat, it depends on the criteria."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was asked during pre-season about Jorginho's chances along with those of midfield partner N'Golo Kante.

"It's good that they talk about our players first of all, and that it shifts a little bit and the guys like Jorgi and like N’Golo Kante are in the spotlight, because they are so, so useful and so, so helpful for any team in the world," he told the official Blues website.

"And we are so lucky to have them."

Having been denied the opportunity to win the award in his remarkable 2020, Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski is another in contention.

Back in May, he broke the late Gerd Muller's record for goals in a Bundesliga season by scoring 41 in 29 games and starting the new campaign strongly, with three strikes in two outings.