Ballon d’Or finalists 2023: Projections and rankings for top players Messi, Haaland, Mbappe and more

France Football is announcing it’s 30-player shortlist for the men’s Ballon d’Or award on Wednesday.

Seven-time winner Lionel Messi is favoured to take home yet another trophy on the heels of completing his career-long quest for World Cup glory with Argentina at Qatar 2022. Messi last won in 2021 and is the all-time leader, his seven Ballon d’Ors outpacing Cristiano Ronaldo who has won five times.

Erling Haaland is Messi’s main rival having racked up 52 goals across all competitions in his first season at Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s side stormed to a treble.

Although it’s no small achievement to make the final 30, there are only a small handful of players who have a genuine case to lift the big prize. Here’s the entire list of 30 finalists.

2023 Ballon d’Or Finalists
Player Current Club National Team
Julian Alvarez Man City Argentina
Nicolo Barella Inter Milan Italy
Jude Bellingham Real Madrid England
Karim Benzema Al-Ittihad France
Yassine Bounou Al-Hilal Morocco
Kevin De Bruyne Man City Belgium
Ruben Dias Man City Portugal
Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid France
Ilkay Gündoğan Barcelona Germany
Josko Gvardiol Man City Croatia
Erling Haaland Man City Norway
Harry Kane Bayern Munich England
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia Napoli Georgia
Robert Lewandowski Barcelona Poland
Emiliano Martinez Aston Villa Argentina
Lautaro Martinez Inter Milan Argentina
Kylian Mbappé PSG France
Lionel Messi Inter Miami Argentina
Kim Min-Jae Bayern Munich South Korea
Luka Modric Real Madrid Croatia
Randal Kolo Muani PSG France
Jamal Musiala Bayern Munich Germany
Martin Ødegaard Arsenal Norway
Andre Onana Man United Cameroon
Victor Osimhen Napoli Nigeria
Rodri Man City Spain
Bukayo Saka Arsenal England
Mohamed Salah Liverpool Egypt
Bernardo Silva Man City Portugal
Vinicius Jr. Real Madrid Brazil

Without further ado, here’s The Sporting News’ Ballon d’Or 2023 top five.

MORE: Why Messi is the Ballon d’Or betting favourite but not the best value bet

5) Rodri (Manchester City & Spain)

Haaland might have been the headline-grabber over the course of the season, but Rodri was the name on everyone’s lips on June 10 when he scored the only goal to edge City past Internazionale in the Champions League final.

The Spain international’s strike in Istanbul continued his handy knack of popping up with clutch goals on the biggest occasions — see his equaliser against Aston Villa in City’s title-clinching comeback on the final day of the 2021/22 Premier League season — but it is only part of the story.

Rodri is arguably Guardiola’s most dependable performer and has a very strong case to be recognised as the best defensive midfielder in the world right now. City won titles before Haaland arrived and his impact in both cup finals they won last season was minimal. He may not get the same fanfare, but it’s impossible to imagine the European champions being anywhere near as successful without Rodri.

4) Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium)

Haaland’s presence saw City’s creator-in-chief kick into a higher gear last season. De Bruyne made the most of a fruitful new relationship to rack up an astonishing 28 assists across all competitions.

A talismanic midfield presence, De Bruyne was magnificent during the season run-in, firing home an equaliser in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal at Real Madrid and scoring twice in a 4-1 demolition of Arsenal that effectively ended the Gunners’ hopes of taking City’s Premier League crown.

The Belgium star came third in the Ballon d’Or voting last season and that might be the best he can hope for again this time around. Like Rodri, an underwhelming campaign at the 2022 World Cup probably counts against him.

3) Kylian Mbappe (PSG & France)

Mbappe becoming the first man since Geoff Hurst to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final eventually served as a footnote to Messi and Argentina getting over the line in a penalty shootout.

However, his performances in Qatar secured the Golden Boot, with Mbappe again showing himself to be an attacker of almost unparalleled destructive capabilities on the biggest stage.

Another Ligue 1 title with PSG was overshadowed by ructions over his future and he probably needs to drive the lavishly funded Parisian club to Champions League success in order to vault into the Ballon d’Or winners’ enclosure.

MORE: Who will win Champions League 2023/24 title? Predictions, betting tips, odds for UEFA tournament

2) Erling Haaland (Manchester City & Norway)

The weight of numbers produced by Haaland and City’s gargantuan achievements mean that, in a normal year, he’d be a clear frontrunner and almost guaranteed to lift the Ballon d’Or.

The truly scary thing for opponents is a sense that Haaland was only scratching the surface of his potential under Guardiola at City as he smashed the Premier League’s single-season scoring record with 36 goals and netted six hat-tricks across all competitions.

The 23-year-old shot out of a cannon in 2023/24 with six goals in four Premier League games and hat-trick number seven, while still showing clear room for improvement in terms of his all-round game and link-up play.

1) Lionel Messi (PSG* & Argentina)

Because the Ballon d’Or only takes into account the 2022/23 season, Messi’s goal-laden start to life at Inter Miami is not part of the conversation here. Perhaps the 36-year-old leaving European football will be another factor to push votes in his direction.

MORE: Messi is taking America by storm and causing quite the absurd outrage

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is odds on to make it eight after his virtuoso showing at the World Cup. He scored seven goals, including a brace in the final, and laid on three assists. He simply would not be denied. Manchester City had already come within a couple of semifinal defeats of a shot at the treble in 2021/22 prior to Haaland’s arrival. Without Messi, Argentina would have been nowhere.

Another Ligue 1 title with PSG feels like a footnote and his club season does not compare to Haaland’s, even if 42 goal contributions are not to be sniffed at. But it’s the cinematic grandeur of his World Cup triumph, the full realisation of perhaps the greatest career of them all that will lead Messi back to a familiar spot on the podium.

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