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Ballon d’Or 2023

Dumitru Palanchuk
Dumitru Palanchuk
26 October 2023, 12:33

On October 30, France Football will announce the winner of the 2023 Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual award in football. The winner will be chosen on the basis of journalist votes, as they are meant to pick the best player of the 2022/23 season.

The 30 nominees to the award were announced on September 6, with treble-winning Manchester City having the most representatives. Nevertheless, 2022 FIFA World Cup triumphant Lionel Messi is a hot favourite for the award despite his weaker performances at club level.

Besides the Men’s Ballon d’Or, France Football will also present the winners of the Women's Ballon dOr, the Kepa Trophy, the Yashin Trophy and other awards at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on the same day. 

Below we will present three main stories to look forward to in regards to the Men’s 2023 Ballon d’Or.

Lionel Messi vs Erling Haaland for 2023 Ballon d’Or

Judging by the bookmakers’ Ballon d’Or 2023 odds back when they were still available, the two main candidates for the award were Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland. It is widely expected that the first two positions in the final voting will be occupied by exactly these two players.

Lionel Messi’s claim to the individual prize rests on his victory with Argentina at the FIFA 2022 World Cup. However, the 36-year-old did not simply win the World Cup, he was also named the best player at the tournament and was the second-best goalscorer, with seven strikes – including two in the final against France – and three assists. 

At the club level, Messi was less successful. He won the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain but his team crashed out of the UEFA Champions League early and failed to win any of the domestic cups. Still, the Argentinian forward had a solid season at the individual level with 21 goals and 20 assists in 41 appearances for the Parisians. 

Erling Haaland, on the other hand, clearly had a better showing at the club level as his Manchester City won the treble, including the first-ever UEFA Champions League trophy in the club’s history. In Pep Guardiola’s dream team, Haaland played the role of the main attacking threat, and was incredible at it. 

Thanks to his prolific performances week in and week out, the Norwegian finished the season with 52 goals in 53 appearances. He was the top goalscorer in the Premier League with a record-breaking 36 goals and the top goalscorer in UEFA Champions League with 12 strikes. Thanks to his scoring tally in England, the 23-year-old was awarded the European Golden Shoe at the end of the 2022/23 season.

So, the voters for the 2023 Ballon d’Or will have to pick between a player who had an amazing run in all playing aspects at the FIFA World Cup – still the most coveted trophy in football – or someone who had an incredible year at the club level, being a heavily-reliable goalscorer but with a less limited skillset. 

The World Cup in 2018 played an important role in determining that year’s Ballon d’Or winner, Luka Modric, and Fabio Cannavaro’s Ballon d’Or in 2006 was also in big part a result of Italy’s triumph at the tournament in Germany.

Possible 8th Ballon d’Or for Lionel Messi

While we do expect it to be a close race between Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland, it still appears that the Argentine has more chances to claim the 2023 Ballon d’Or. Moreover, it has been reported in the media, including by the ever-reliable Fabrizio Romano, that the prize has gone to Messi. It remains to be seen whether these rumours will be confirmed on October 30.

If the Ballon d’Or is indeed handed to Messi, it will be the eight time in his career that he wins it. Before the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi era, nobody won the Ballon d’Or on more than three occasions. Now, Ronaldo sits at five Ballon d’Ors but Messi still has him beaten.

The implications of a eighth Ballon d’Or for the Argentine will be massive and will go besides the record. First of all, it will once and for all settle the debate on who had a better career between him and Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Argentine will boast a FIFA World Cup trophy and three more Ballon d’Ors.

Second, it speaks to Messi’s longevity. The first time he won the Ballon d’Or was all the way back in 2009 when his Barcelona side was dominating Europe and he was scoring by the dozen. Almost 15 years later, Leo is still being voted the best player in the world while playing a different type of football, more focused on creating than finishing. 

Third, this would make Messi the first ever player to win the Ballon d’Or while playing outside Europe as he joined Inter Miami in the MLS on contract expiry over the summer. Of course, his main achievements came with Argentina and PSG, but a fact is still a fact. 

Fourth, this will likely be the last chance for Messi to win the Ballon d’Or. Playing in the MLS is not valued as highly as performing in Europe’s top leagues, even if Leo continues to shine with Argentina at future international events. 

And fifth, this is likely a record that will never be beaten by another footballer. Even 100 years from now, people will look at the list of Ballon d’Or winners, see Lionel Messi’s name appear eight times within a space of 15 years and understand that he was a player like no other.

Other Candidates to 2023 Ballon d’Or

Of course, the voters in the 2023 Ballon d’Or will not be limited to the options of Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland. While we imagine it difficult for a third player to break their duopoly, it is still worth remembering that there were other great performers throughout the 2022/23 season which may end up quite high in the final voting.

For one, Kevin De Bruyne shares the same titles at the club level as Erling Haaland. While the Norwegian was the top scorer of the team, De Bruyne was the brains of Man City’s midfield and the main assist supplier. The Belgian finished the 2022/23 campaign with 10 goals and 31 assists. Unlike Haaland, he has been playing at the top level for a long time now.

Rodri is a top contender for those fans that want to go beyond goals and assists. The Spaniard was a key piece of Pep Guardiola’s team, starting in nearly every game. Rodri also came in clutch when Man City needed him the most, scoring the match-winner in the UEFA Champions League final against Inter Milan. He also won the UEFA Nations League with Spain this summer.

Vinicius Junior would have been a strong candidate in a different year as he had a great season with Real Madrid. The winger was Los Blancos’ best performer last term, contributing with 23 goals and 21 assists in 55 matches, as Madrid claimed the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Copa del Rey.

And this list would not be complete without Kylian Mbappe, of course. He shares the same club achievements as Lionel Messi last season but with a better individual record, as he contributed with 41 goals and 10 assists in 43 matches for PSG. The forward was great at the FIFA 2022 World Cup too, where he was the top goalscorer with eight strikes, including a hat-trick in the final that France ended up losing to Argentina.

In any case, the race for third place will serve as an indication of what the voters value most between team achievements, individual brilliance and personal numbers.