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Ballon d’Or 2023: Updated Rankings After Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe Exit Champions League
- The Ballon d'Or 2023 award is bound to attract a lot of debate, with no clear favourite for the accolade
- Lionel Messi might have won the World Cup but an early Champions League exit complicated issues for him
- Sports Brief takes a look at how the 2023 race is panning out and why it will be the most difficult one to award
Look, we are not in the business of prophecy but you can take this to the bank and use it as collateral: the 2023 Ballon d'Or awards will be full of drama.
With past events such as 2013 and 2010 still rocked by claims of favouritism and daylight robbery, the 2023 award is threatening to follow a similar suit.
It loks like holding the FIFA World Cup in December wasn't a good idea after all.
Lionel Messi remains the front-runner to win a record eighth title when the ceremony goes down sometime in October this year. His World Cup heroics with Argentina have given him a perfect head start.
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Kylian Mbappe is second on the list after he almost single-handedly won the World Cup for France.
All this was before Paris Saint-Germain were knocked out of the Champions League by a ruthless Bayern Munich.
The World Cup question
In as much as the Ballon d'Or award is often given on individual merit, the Champions League usually plays a critical role in swaying the vote.
In the case of a World Cup year, the once-in-four-years competition takes precedence over any other trophy - Luka Modric is a witness.
Questions have already started streaming in on how this year's award will be determined by a 'seven-game tournament.' How can someone who got knocked out in the round of 16 of a competition as important as the Champions League receive the award?
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This is why Messi and Mbappe, by a margin, will have a difficult time convincing anyone why they are worthy of the award. The fact that they play in a league often referred to as a farmers' league doesn't help either.
Admittedly, they remain the strong favourites, but who else can make the cut?
1. Karim Benzema
Had Benzema been part of the France squad in the run-up to the World Cup finals, we wouldn't even be having this debate. The French striker has an outside shot of making it back-to-back wins if he leads Real Madrid to a 15th Champions League title.
But get this; he didn't get the FIFA Best Award because Messi had the World Cup trophy. Will the script repeat itself in the Ballon d'Or?
2. Marcus Rashford
All the Manchester United striker is bringing to the table is his goals; that's if he can keep up with his ridiculous form.
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Even if he wins the Europa League with United, it will be unheard of for the winner of the second-fiddle European competition to better someone with a Champions League trophy, leave alone the World Cup.
3. Erling Haaland
The Norwegian might have stopped scoring hat-tricks, but he is still in a strong-looking Manchester City squad gunning for a maiden Champions League title. Can he inspire the Citizens to win the trophy in June?
His odds would also dramatically increase if they can pip Arsenal to the Premier League title. A combination of the Premier League title and the Champions League title can be brought into the discussion with someone who has a World Cup trophy.
Plus, his goals this season? Hard to see anyone beating him to the Golden Shoe.
The other usual suspects, like Robert Lewandowski, are out of the picture. The Pole has no European title to fight for, just the La Liga trophy.
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Victor Osimhen could be an exciting pick if Luciano Spalletti can guide Napoli into doing the unthinkable, winning the Champions League. It is assumed they have already wrapped up the Scudetto.
Vinicius Junior is also an outside pick but with Benzema still in the picture, the Brazilian will have to bide his time. An Arsenal player, probably Bukayo Saka, might also make the cut if they win the League. But his numbers aren't as impressive as the other contestants.
In a nutshell, the Ballon d'Or 2023 award is bound to raise questions about why a certain player won and not the other?
Unlike in 2022, there is no favourite. Anyone can win, and a good case can be made as to why they won.
Expect disgruntled fans and headlines of daylight robbery, Ballon d'Or scandal, Ballon shame in October.