Ballon d’Or 2023: Why Mbappe Deserves to Finish Ahead of Haaland Amid the Messi World Cup Question

Ballon d’Or 2023: Why Mbappe Deserves to Finish Ahead of Haaland Amid the Messi World Cup Question

Martin Moses
updated at October 18, 2023 at 8:27 AM
In this article:
Kylian Mbappé logo
Paris Saint Germain (PSG) logoFFrance logo
Lionel Messi logo
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  • Lionel Messi is believed to be an official announcement away from another Ballon d'Or award
  • Erling Haaland's treble-winning season puts him in good standing for an extremely high finish
  • Sports Brief looks at why Kylian Mbappe deserves second place if Messi is declared the winner

There seems to be a general consensus on social media that it is only a matter of time before Lionel Messi is awarded the 2023 Ballon d'Or title.

The October 30 ceremony, set to happen at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, will provide a platform for the 36-year-old prodigy to land the eighth award of his acclaimed career.

Either that or one of the 'upstarts' seeking to take over his throne eventually makes history.

Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Ballon d'Or, Erling Haaland
Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe during the 2022 World Cup final. Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA.
Source: Getty Images

It goes without saying that leading Argentina to the 2022 World Cup triumph in Qatar made Messi an instant favourite.

He bossed the tournament, making it its own despite the first-day Saudi Arabia shock, to complete a fairy tale win in the December 18 final.

It has been argued that the next-best player was Erling Haaland. A quick look at what the Norwegian phenom achieved makes it a hard point to argue against.

52 goals in 53 appearances - three trophies, among them the UEFA Champions League in your maiden season in England, is no mean fete.

No one usually remembers who came second, but for argument purposes, let me try and make a case for one Kylian Mbappe. Sorry, Erling.

The World Cup question in Ballon d'Or vote

If Messi is going to run the Ballon d'Or narrative and eventually win it on the sole basis of winning the World Cup, then Mbappe deserves to finish right behind him.

Bar Messi and probably Emi Martinez, the 24-year-old was the best player in the Middle East tournament. For starters, very few people will ever forget how he almost singlehandedly dragged France to a second World Cup in consecutive editions.

Mbappe's performance in the final is one of the best individual performances at the biggest of stages in football history. For him to end up on the losing side was damaging and hurtful.

Messi vs Mbappe 2022/2023 season

Compared to Messi (the perceived winner), Mbappe was only marginally poorer than his then-Paris Saint-Germain teammate. He might have gotten the Golden Boot, tried to influence games, but Messi got the one thing that mattered - the trophy.

However, at the club level, the Frenchman was superior. They both exited the Champions League in the round of 16, won the same amount of trophies, but in individual numbers, Mbappe was clear. He found the back of the net 29 times in Ligue 1, with Messi scoring 16 times.

The Argentine veteran only bridges the gap when his assists are added to get a cumulative goal return of 32 goals and assists compared to Mbappe's 35 as captured by FbRef.

Why Mbappe deserves to finish ahead of Haaland

When compared to Haaland (the perceived runner-up), Mbappe's main undoing is that he doesn't have the World Cup to rival the Norwegian's Champions League.

But while Haaland might have scored many goals, his inability to shine in big games ought to derail his march for second place, let alone win the whole thing. Plus, the absence of Norway entirely at the World Cup further complicates his chances.

If the World Cup is going to be used as the yardstick of who the winner will be, then it is only fair that the first and second-best players in Qatar finish in similar positions in the Ballon d'Or vote.

I rest my case.

History's biggest Ballon d'Or 'robberies'

Sports Brief also reported on the decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in the 'weird' month of December, sparking unprecedented debate ahead of the 2023 Ballon d'Or race.

The World Cup is often a strong indicator of who will win, with Messi believed to be leading the race for the coveted gong, yet Haaland has since immersed himself in the debate.

There is no doubt the 2023 race to the top individual prize in football will be a heated one, but what are some of the most controversial Ballon d'Or decisions in awards history?

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)