The 2023 Ballon d’Or award is once again 10 months away with the winner set to be announced and crowned in October 2023 based on performances for the 2022-23 season(August to July).
Real Madrid"s Karim Benzema won the 66th edition of the award for the first time in his career back in October but a lot has happened since then.
We"ve had a really eventful season. With the 2022 World Cup sandwiched in between the already busy league schedules, it"s been quite a hectic campaign and there have been a lot of stellar performances from stars all around the world.
But with just under six months to go till the season ends, who are the players leading the race to land the 2023 French Golden Ball?
1) Kylian Mbappe – Ballon d"Or Young Gun
Number one on this list, the Frenchman could very well be number one in the world at the end of the season. It"s been a fantastic season for the 24-year-old. He was at the heart and the genius of France"s sensational run to the final of the World Cup just a few days ago and almost single-handedly gave Les Bleus the trophy after scoring a beautiful hattrick in the final against Argentina but the French were narrowly edged out on penalties. Mbappe came away with the Golden boot, tallying eight goals and having narrowly beaten his PSG teammate, Lionel Messi, who scored seven.
Back at home ground in Parc Des Princes, Mbappe has been inarguably the greatest asset to the French club this season. He has scored 12 goals in 14 games in the domestic league to add to his seven goals in six games in the UEFA Champions League where he currently leads the goalscoring charts alongside Liverpool"s Mohamed Salah. Making a total of 19 goals in 20 appearances, the PSG forward has an amazing goal-to-game ratio of 0.95
Definitely could land his first-ever Ballon d"Or in October.
2) Lionel Messi – Ballon d"Or Legend
Worths being on this list a hundred percent, the Argentine talisman achieved probably his final football dream on Sunday as he guided La Albiceste to a 3rd World Cup trophy, their first in 36 years, at the expense of France. He found the back of the net seven times in Qatar and has the same tally for PSG in Ligue one this season; in 12 games, four goals in five games in Europe.
Paris Saint Germain face Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 next year. Messi may have a go at Mbappe, the 35-year-old has an obvious advantage over his teammate and that"s: if PSG wins the Champions League, the Argentine by virtue of his World Cup triumph most likely gets the Ballon d"Or for a record eighth time.
3) Erling Haaland – Ballon d"Or Scoring Chief
Ever since the Norwegian lad completed a big summer move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City, he"s been mesmerizing. He"s been worth every penny spent on bringing him to Etihad from the Signal Iduna Park, worth more than the £51.2m splashed on him by the way. 24 goals in 19 appearances, simply sensational and terrifying to the opposition as well.
4.) Kevin De Bruyne – Ballon d"Or Midfield Maestro
Another citizen on the list, a sizeable portion of the aforementioned star"s success has come on the back of the Belgian playmaker. De Bruyne has been highly pivotal to City this season, racking up nine assists in the EPL, the highest this season, and three in the Champions League. Coming off a disappointing World Cup campaign in which Belgium exited in the group stages, De Bruyne would definitely be hoping to bounce back from his international nemesis and achieve with Pep Guardiola"s side. It"s quite certain he won"t win the Ballon d"Or, owing to the fact that Haaland would probably come before him but he definitely can replicate the kind of performance that landed him third position this year. And that"s provided Manchester City wins trophies this season.
5.) Mohammed Salah – Egyptian King
The Egyptian King was not at the party in Qatar and that will no doubt serve as a drawback when the Ballon d"Or rankings are to be decided, but Mohammed Salah can still work some magic. With seven goals in Europe and six goals in England"s top flight in 14 games, Salah remains Liverpool"s main man after the summer departure of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich. However, Jurgen Klopp"s men must win the Champions League if Salah is to finish with a commendable position.
6.) Karim Benzema – Can he Secure a Ballon d"Or Double?
It"d be a Messi and Ronaldo-Esque performance if Benzema retains his title next year. Though, that would come will a lot of hurdles. The 34-year-old narrowly missed out on the World Cup thanks to a thigh injury but recently recovered and should be back to leading the pack for Los Blancos. Madrid has an uphill battle against Liverpool in the Round of 16 next year and currently sits second on the La Liga table behind rivals, Barcelona. But it"s too early to judge the 14-time UCL Champions. The January-June period is more than enough time for La Casa Blanca to turn the tide in their favour, a backbreaking task they"d be needing their star player for.
7.) Neymar – Shadow Candidate
Yes, now we know the Brazilian star has not performed as much as the remaining stars on this list, but Neymar definitely can still make the top three in the Ballon d"Or next year. It"s almost certain he won"t win it because his teammates, Mbappe and Messi would always come before him thanks to Qatar 2022.
But really, if this PSG attacking trio could translate that same energy they exuded at the just concluded World Cup, then they definitely can break the UCL hoodoo and win the club"s first-ever Champions League.
Who are you backing to win the 2023 Ballon d"Or? Not on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.
main image credits: Getty Images