Ever since 2011, it has been a tradition that the year starts off with the Ballon d’Or ceremony. The prestigious prize awarded by the magazine France Football passed to the hands of Fifa in 2010 and is now handed out to the world’s finest footballer in the first few days of January. And Lionel Messi has been there on each of those occasions.
Up until now, there have been five editions since the change of format – and Messi has won three of those. But behind the success of winning the individual award is another story: his relationship with fasion and, in particular, with Dolce & Gabbana.
Each of one the past five galas of the Fifa Ballon d’Or has doubled up as a catalogue of the latest lines of suits tailored by the Italian firm, with Messi as the model in house. And as well as some extravagant ensembles, La Pulga has shown off another side to his personality that very few had seen before.
Despite the austere and discreet image he portrays in his public life, Messi enjoys turning up to these events with patterned or colourful suits – and that is clear to see in the galas that are celebrated in Switzerland year after year.
“With my friend Domenico”, Messi wrote on his Instagram account in 2014. The man in question is Domenico Dolce, half of the famous firm Dolce & Gabbana. The relationship, clearly, goes deeper than a mere commercial agreement.
Messi and his partner Antonella Roccuzzo are both models for the Italian brand and wear D&G clothes to all of the galas they attend. This accord, or friendly agreement, seemingly has no end date. There is no contract linking them for a determined amount of time, although both parties insist it will be for life.
The 28-year-old does not only front campaigns, but also goes along to fashion shows, inaugurates spaces and dresses in Dolce & Gabbana for virtually every event possible outside football. This is a marriage of one man and his suits – and it seems an ideal fit.
In a press release in 2010, when the agreement began, both Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana expressed their happiness at “linking our name to that of a great champion such as Leo Messi”.
“Talent is innate,” it continued, “but it’s the passion and the sheer will we see while he plays that have elevated him to the highest level of worldwide football.”
But the most interesting thing is that Messi is far from the typical player with the perfect physique for the fashion world, like David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo, to name two examples. What attracted Dolce & Gabbana to him, however, was his story and his continued personal growth.
“It’s the passion and the determination with which he plays,” the two designers said when asked why they chose Messi. The same reasons that have seen him dominate the football world for so long.
Therein lies another triumph for La Pulga, and an unexpected one at that: conquering the fashion world. And even at this, far away from the football field, the Argentine has shown he is the greatest of them all.