Over the past 15 years, the prestigious Ballon d’Or awardhas been dominated by Messi and his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, with a combined 12 wins between them.Only two other players have managed to break this duopoly: Luka Modric in 2018 and Karim Benzema in the previous year.
Notably, a recent rule change now bases the award on a player’s performance over the last season, as opposed to the entire calendar year. In the previous season, Messi led Argentina to victory in the World Cup in Qatar, scoring seven goals and earning the title of the tournament’s best player.
This triumph was a defining moment in his remarkable career and could provide Messi with the edge to outshine the competition among the 30 nominees. Among them, seven members of Manchester City’s squad, who clinched the English Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola made a strong case for Erling Haaland, who scored an impressive 52 goals in 53 games and was already honoured with the UEFA Player of the Year award for the last season. He stated, “I always said that the Ballon d’Or should be in two sections, one for Messi, and after that look for the other one.” He added, “Both deserve it, so what can I say? Selfishly I would say I want it to be Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved. I would love it.”
However, Messi’s club season with Paris Saint-Germain was underwhelming, and he subsequently transferred to Inter Miami in Major League Soccer. In contrast, Kylian Mbappe’s outstanding performance for PSG last season, scoring 41 goals and topping the World Cup’s goal charts, has him firmly in the race.
In France, there’s a strong case for Mbappe’s victory, and even the manager of French club Lens, Franck Haise, expressed his support: “Another Frenchman, Kylian Mbappe, because he had such a complete season and he is an exceptional player.”
The Ballon d’Or is determined by a jury of one journalist from each of the top 100 nations in FIFA’s ranking.
On the women’s side, the outcome appears more certain. Aitana Bonmati, a 25-year-old Barcelona midfielder, has emerged as the standout contender. She played a pivotal role in Spain’s Women’s World Cup triumph in Sydney, winning the tournament with grace amidst off-field turbulence.
The list of nominees features other accomplished players like Hinata Miyazawa of Japan and Australia’s Sam Kerr, but Bonmati’s success seems almost certain. Even Pep Guardiola likened her to another Barcelona great, Andres Iniesta.
The official confirmation of the Ballon d’Or winners will come at the ceremony in Paris on Monday, which promises to be a significant event for the football world. Stay tuned for live updates on the award announcements.
(With inputs from AFP)