In this non World Cup year, the Ballon D’Or awarded to the outstanding footballer of the global game and the
European Golden Shoe bestowed upon the player who scores the most goals in a league across the continent are an open race. No matter what Lionel Messi does with Inter Miami or Cristiano Ronaldo achieves with Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, football’s biggest individual prizes will be won by a new face. Messi (8) and CR7 (5) have won the more prestigious Ballon D’Or in 13 out of the last 15 seasons, shutting out competition.
No football fan born after Brazil won it’s third World Cup in 1970 can dispute the fact that Messi is the greatest player since Edson Arantes dos Nascimento aka Pele. Diego Armando Maradona aficionados are the doubting Thomases that were blown out of the water by Messi’s Qatar 2022 heroics. But we must spare a thought for Frank Ribery (2013) and Robert Lewandowski (2020) who should have won the Ballon D’Or weren’t it for commercial considerations.
Erling Braut Haaland, Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Kylian Mbappe Lottin, Lautaro Martinez and Serhou Guirassy are the stars setting the pace for this season’s accolades. Guinean hot shot Guirassy’s 15 goals in just 9 Bundesliga games is the highest goals per game ratio of any striker in Europe. His principal disadvantage is that he features for a Stuttgart side that isn’t playing in Europe. This excludes him from the race for the Ballon D’Or.
Norway’s struggles to qualify for next year’s European Championship implies 2023/24 is the year in which Manchester City striker Erling Braut Haaland must earmark to go one better than the runner up gong he received for propelling the Cityzens to a treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League crowns. The Norwegian behemoth’s cause is of course helped by City’s invincibility which has them as favourites to lift Big Ears again.
Kylian Mbappe Lottin is favourite for next year’s Ballon D’Or on account of France’s strength and position as number one favourites to win Euro 2024 in Germany. Mbappe already has 12 World Cup goals to his name, shines for Les Bleus and could become the country’s record scorer as soon as next year. His current club Paris Saint Germain’s erratic European form places him at a disadvantage but we must remember he will be a free agent next June.
His handlers among whom are parents Wilfred Mbappe and Fayza Lomari are best advised to ensure he moves to Real Madrid. The Santiago Bernabeu club are synonymous with Uefa Champions League success and are undergoing an evolution/transition phase in which Mbappe’s arrival should be the icing on the cake to complement a star studded cast featuring Vinicius Junior and Bellingham.
Englishmen Kane and Bellingham are contenders for the Ballon D’Or in the next two years on account of the strength of their clubs. Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are the bookmakers next favourites to lift Big Ears after Manchester City, and England are joint favourites to lift Euro 2024. If Kane or Bellingham continue with their barnstorming start to the season for club and country, they will be right there in the mix for this season’s award. Kane’s 17 Bundesliga goals in 11 outings also make him the runaway leader in the race for this season’s European Golden Shoe.
Ballon D’Ors have been few and far between for British players despite their early dominance which saw Sir Stanley Matthews’ 1956 award followed up by Denis Law in 1964, Bobby Charlton in 1966 and George Best in 1968. A decade elapsed before Kevin Keegan won it in 1978 and 1979. It took 22 years for Michael Owen to achieve the feat in 2001 on account of his heroics with Liverpool under Gerhard Houllier. 22 years have elapsed without a British footballer winning the gong. 2023 and 2024 are their years to lose.