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Once again, EA Sports kneels before the talent of Lionel Messi, and officially names him best player of FIFA’s Team of the Year. Is that the correct choice, even in the face of the impressive numbers and impact of Kylian Mbappé, whichever team he plays for?

Let's be clear – Messi has finally broken the curse that saw him reduced to an often embarrassing sparring partner when wearing his national team's shirt.

However, in the span of just a couple of years, he won first the Copa América and then the World Cup, something that Argentina hadn't achieved since the times of one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Diego Armando Maradona.

Undoubtedly, the chance that this kind of feat will lead him to lift another Ballon d'Or are very high, especially if things should go particularly well with Paris Saint-Germain – a Champions League triumph may be a target within reach for one of wealthiest clubs ever.

But looking at last year in its entirety and how FIFA 23 had somehow managed to get Messi off his golden pedestal (mere years after Cristiano Ronaldo's turn), one wonders if it was right to put him back on it as happened with the TOTY.

After a long domination, Messi had to be content with a starting rating of 91 along with the likes of Mbappé, De Bruyne, Benzema, and Lewandowski. The game had finally acknowledged that there’s a handful of players on the same level, all deserving to be called the best in the world. Most of the fan base could agree with that, given the performances at the time. Some even though that Benzema, winner of the Ballon d'Or and key to Real Madrid winning both LaLiga and the Champions League last year, should have been the only one at the top.

Now, after a World Cup that recognized the Argentinian's talent and leadership, Messi is back in front with a sumptuous overall rating of 98. Benzema, Mbappé, and De Bruyne are the only ones within reach now. And, let's not hide it, the news of this newly-found gap was quite surprising even for insiders.

In absolute terms, looking at the World Cup in Qatar, I’m fine with Messi having that kind of rating. The one that doesn't fit is 97 for Kylian Mbappé.

A soccer player in FIFA 23.

Is there really a point of difference between Messi and Mbappé today?

Of course, FIFA 23’s TOTY isn’t exclusively about the World Cup and the national teams, but even in the light of the complete season, one wonders if Messi can really be said to have bested Mbappé in that timeframe, and if the World Cup was enough for the Argentinian to overtake him.

The simplest answer? Drop a 99 for Messi, just as a honorary award for what he was able to achieve throughout his incredible career, a 98 for Mbappé, a 97 for Benzema and De Bruyne, and then rate all the rest of the "humans" of modern soccer, who are already being celebrated by the inclusion in the prestigious TOTY itself.

This way, EA would have made sure to set things right with Mbappé at least, making it clear that the French not-so-much-anymore wonderkid is something else entirely, compared to Benzema and De Bruyne (one day or another we should have a chat about why De Bruyne is even here, at 97, just not today).

The toughest choice would have been not to award Messi, who already is an icon of the sport, the best overall rating in every ranking where he finds himself competing, just because he is Messi and just because he is a living legend.

This is probably the final year where we’ll have to ask similar questions and face such dilemmas, because beyond the immortality of his performances and his most recent, if unexpected results, Mbappé already looks ready to replace him.

Meanwhile, however, we can only look at that 98 and that 97, and ask ourselves if there really is a one point difference between today's Messi and Mbappé – perhaps it’s finally time to leave the weight of the legend behind.

Check our FIFA 23 TOTY schedule to find out when you can grab Messi's and Mbappé's TOTY cards.