Ballon d’Or 2023 Rankings: Messi and Haaland Out in Front as Historic Wins Loom

The 2023 Ballon d’Or nominations have been announced, with Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland leading a star-studded list of contenders for the coveted individual honor in men’s football. 

As the January award ceremony nears, history beckons for several favorites.

Messi comes in hot after an iconic World Cup triumph with Argentina last December that bolstered his credentials as potentially the greatest footballer ever. 

The Paris Saint-Germain magician seeks to capture a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or victory to further cement his legacy as the standout player of his generation.

Meanwhile, Haaland’s blistering start to life at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola has catapulted him into contention. 

The Norwegian goal machine is primed to potentially break numerous scoring records across domestic and continental competitions in just his first full season in the Premier League.

Current Top 5 Favorites for the 2023 Ballon d’Or

While Messi and Haaland lead the way in the initial odds and predictions, here are 5 major contenders for the 2023 Ballon d’Or as things stand heading into the new calendar year:

5. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain/France)

The mercurial French superstar remains one of football’s most lethal attacking talents even at just 24 years old. 

Fresh off winning the iconic World Cup Golden Boot last December, further Ligue 1 glory and a potential maiden Champions League trophy with PSG could bolster Mbappe’s case to be crowned the world’s best player next year.

After initially struggling to match his stratospheric standards following the World Cup, Mbappe will look to lead PSG’s quest for European glory. 

With Neymar and Messi still world class supplementary options, he has the supporting cast to help him make a late charge up the Ballon d’Or pecking order.

4. Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona/Poland)

While no longer the consensus second best player in the world behind Messi like at his Bayern Munich peak, Lewandowski’s incredible consistency and world-class goalscoring abilities keep him firmly in the Ballon d’Or mix. 

He spearheads Barcelona’s revival under Xavi Hernandez, with the Catalans once again atop La Liga and faring well in the Champions League group stages.

Now plying his trade in arguably the most competitive domestic league on the planet, Lewandowski has seemingly rediscovered an extra gear at 34 years old. If he can lead Barcelona to Spanish glory and a deep Champions League run, he may have an outside shot at upending his former Bundesliga peer Haaland for the award.

3. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium)

The brilliant Belgian playmaker is still widely regarded by many pundits and fans as the finest creative force in football currently. De Bruyne’s stats and moments of genius speak for themselves – he has topped the Premier League assists charts for the past three seasons. 

Already the heartbeat of Pep Guardiola’s champion Manchester City side, De Bruyne has the chance to spearhead their quest for that elusive Champions League crown – a feat that would greatly boost his personal accolades.

2. Erling Haaland (Manchester City/Norway)

The Norwegian striking sensation has set the English Premier League ablaze in his debut Manchester City season, tearing defenses apart at a historically prolific rate under Pep’s stewardship. 

He is currently on pace to break domestic and Champions League goalscoring records en route to a potential quadruple winning season for the Citizens.

Haaland’s frightening combination of blistering pace, physicality, instincts and finishing ability make him arguably the most dangerous forward in football. Still just 22, his potential feels limitless. 

While the Premier League season is a marathon, not a sprint, Haaland has positioning himself menacingly to make it impossible for Ballon d’Or voters to ignore his overwhelming stats and moments of brilliance.

1. Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain/Argentina)

Fresh off that emotional World Cup triumph in Qatar with Argentina last December, Messi remains the favorite to capture a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or in early 2023. 

Cementing another domestic title and winning a third Champions League crown with PSG would further supplement his case to take back-to-back honors for a second time while indisputably augmenting his position as the greatest of all time.

While Father Time is undefeated and Messi is now 35, he has adapted his playstyle seamlessly to remain devastatingly effective in a slightly deeper playmaking role behind Mbappe and Neymar at PSG. 

Even with his reduced mobility, Messi’s magical left foot, passing, vision, big game aura and overall footballing brain continue setting him apart when fully fit and dialed in. 

After realizing his last remaining dream of winning a World Cup this winter, Leo appears infused with renewed passion and energy ahead of the season’s second half push.

Diving Deeper: Head-to-Head Case – Messi vs. Haaland

Diving Deeper: Head-to-Head Case - Messi vs. Haaland

Given their pole positions among the betting markets and fan polls for 2023 glory, it is worth analyzing the case for Messi and Haaland’s Ballon d’Or credentials in greater depth heading into the new year:

Case for Lionel Messi

  • His iconic World Cup winning pedigree achieved last December still feels tangibly fresh and emotionally resonant for many voters.
  • The record-breaking narrative around an unprecedented eighth Ballon d’Or victory remains compelling – it would certainly be another special feather in Messi’s cap as he aims to unquestionably cement his undisputed status as the GOAT.
  • Versatility, playmaking and overall well-roundedness still set Messi apart. While Haaland’s sheer goal numbers will be incredibly eye-catching, Leo’s combination of elite vision, creativity, passing range, set piece delivery, and big game experience also must be weighed heavily by voters.
  • Messi has an opportunity to double down by leading PSG to that elusive first Champions League crown. Given it represents the last unconquered territory of his era-defining career, winning the continent’s biggest club competition with PSG would be particularly meaningful.

Case for Erling Haaland:

  • Otherworldly goalscoring numbers threaten high profile records, especially in Premier League. Haaland is currently averaging over 1.5 goals per 90 minutes domestically – a figure that dwarfs Leo even during his peak Barcelona seasons on an all-time level. On pace to shatter many perceived untouchable tallies.
  • Spearheading what could prove an historic four trophy haul with Manchester City would resonate. The Champions League remains the holy grail for Pep’s project – if Haaland delivers that, it may swing votes.
  • Sheer awe-inspiring nature of his blistering displays and obvious rare gifts as a physical specimen cannot be ignored. He bends the game to his will.
  • Lack of international stage exposure for Norway the only major hindrance. But being the centerpiece of potentially the finest Premier League season ever would hold plenty of weight and eyeballs.

At the end of the day, while Haaland’s dominance has a certain undeniable gravity that threatens the old guard order of things in football, Messi still appears a slight favorite for now by virtue of his international immortality combined with the romantic possibility of unprecedented statistical feats. 

But it remains a fluid, tightly contested two-horse race heading into the 2023 run-in.

Why History Looms Large Over the 2023 Ballon d’Or Landscape


As new candidates like Haaland emerge to challenge established greats like Messi in the Ballon d’Or sphere, re-examining past award trends and notable historical oversights seems particularly prudent given the high stakes at play.

Controversies and Questionable Choices Worth Revisiting

Legendary Dutch striker Johan Cruyff inexplicably never won the Ballon d’Or during his iconic playing career despite profoundly influencing football’s tactical evolution as part of his glittering legacy.

Meanwhile, modern greats like Xavi and Andres Iniesta had compelling cases during their sustained prime years for more than the singular Ballon d’Or victories they eventually claimed, given their roles as the creative fulcrums that powered the transcendent Spanish national team and Barcelona sides of that era.

Even current candidates like Polish marksman Robert Lewandowski saw his 2020 odds derailed by the unprecedented cancellation of the award due to the COVID pandemic – preventing him from capitalizing on the finest scoring season of his storied career.

Balancing Team Glory Against Individual Brilliance

The voting criteria for the award has also oscillated over time. Earlier editions tended to weigh team trophies more heavily (thus enabling defenders like Franz Beckenbauer to win), while recent versions focus substantially more on individual offensive stats and standout moments of genius.

Striking the appropriate calibration between those two poles will prove critical for the 2023 panel. Do Haaland’s projected record-shattering goal numbers supersede Messi’s World Cup resonance and the romanticism around an eighth victory?

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