Ballon d’Or 2023 Power Rankings: Lionel Messi set to pip Erling Haaland to eighth Golden Ball as Man City dominate potential nominees
The race to win the Golden Ball is over after the final trophies of the season were handed out – so how is the top 20 likely to look?
The race for the 2023 Ballon d’Or race is all-but over, with some of the world’s best footballers having spent the past 11 months vying to succeed 2022 winner Karim Benzema in lifting the Golden Ball in Paris on October 30.
It promised to be a unique Ballon d’Or battle, with the World Cup taking place in the middle of the 2022-23 campaign, meaning it could be a distant memory by the time votes are cast in August. There is no doubt, however, that playing a starring role in Qatar has boosted some players’ chances of competing for the Golden Ball, even with domestic and European titles now having been decided.
Who, then, has put themselves in the frame for the biggest individual honour of them all as we await the nominations reveal on September 6? Join GOAL as our 12-month Ballon d’Or Power Rankings journey comes to a conclusion…
20Casemiro (Manchester United)
In 2022-23: Nine goals, eight assists. Won Carabao Cup & UEFA Super Cup.
Casemiro’s goals against Bournemouth and Chelsea helped confirm United’s return to the Champions League, capping a fine debut campaign for the Brazil international at Old Trafford following his summer arrival from Real Madrid.
Perhaps his most important goal came in the Carabao Cup final as United secured their first silverware since 2017, though it was his presence in front of the defence that was most transformative for Erik ten Hag’s side.
19Jack Grealish (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: Six goals, 11 assists. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
His raw attacking statistics can still underwhelm given the price City paid for him, but there is no doubt that Grealish’s performances in 2022-23 have shown just why he cost £100 million to sign in the summer of 2022.
He played a key role in their treble triumph, though his celebrations during the end-of-season campaign may well end up being his most memorable contribution.
18John Stones (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: Three goals, four assists, 17 clean sheets. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Stones has gone from a dependable centre-back to a versatile right-back to a marauding central midfielder in the space of the season, with his change of role perhaps the defining factor in City winning the treble.
The England international was superb in the Champions League final, and expect his career to go to even greater heights over the next few years.
17Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
In 2022-23: 22 goals, 14 assists.
Much like Arsenal as a collective, Saka’s form dropped off at the exact wrong time for the Gunners as their title challenge evaporated in a matter of weeks.
Despite that, expect the England winger, along with team-mate Martin Odegaard, to be on the 30-man shortlist for the 2023 Ballon d’Or when its announced later this year.
16Lautaro Martinez (Inter)
In 2022-23: 29 goals, 12 assists. Won World Cup, Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Martinez fluffed his lines in Istanbul, as he wasted a great opportunity to give Inter the lead in the Champions League final before Manchester City got their noses in front and refused to give their lead up.
However, given his goalscoring record in Serie A this season, his two goals to win the Coppa Italia and his (admittedly bit-part) role in Argentina’s World Cup win, he can be assured of a Ballon d’Or nomination.
15Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)
In 2022-23: 15 goals, nine assists.
One can only theorise as to whether Borussia Dortmund would have won the Bundesliga title had Bellingham been fit for the final day of the season, but there’s no doubt that the teenager’s performances were the driving force behind BVB getting so close.
Named Bundesliga Player of the Season, he can now start preparing for life as a Real Madrid player over the next couple of months.
14Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
In 2022-23: 34 goals, 12 assists. Won Carabao Cup.
Rashford will hope that his form between December and February was a foreshadowing of what is to come in his career, rather than merely a hot streak. If it proves to be the former, expect him to be in the Ballon d’Or reckoning for at least the next five years.
13Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli)
In 2022-23: 16 goals, 17 assists. Won Serie A.
‘Kvaradona’s’ form wasn’t the same in 2023 as it was before the turn of the year, but Napoli fans will not care given the role he has played in them winning their first Scudetto since 1990.
The Georgian winger was one of the signings of the season in European football, and remains one of the trickiest wingers to defend against anywhere on the continent.
12Karim Benzema (Al-Ittihad)
In 2022-23: 31 goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.
There will be no Ballon d’Or for Benzema this season as the reigning Golden Ball holder was powerless to help Real Madrid reach yet another Champions League final or win La Liga.
It remains to be seen whether that is the end of his European career following his move to Al-Ittihad. If it is, that may well be the end of the French striker competing for these prizes again.
11Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: 10 goals, eight assists. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Bernardo is not a regular goalscorer, but he does score his fair share of big goals, and few were bigger than the pair he scored to set City on their way to beating Real Madrid and securing their spot in the Champions League final.
If this was the Portugal playmaker’s last season at the Etihad Stadium, he clearly wanted to go out with a bang, and he did just that.
10Julian Alvarez (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: 23 goals, six assists. Won World Cup, Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Only six Premier League players scored more goals in all competitions than Alvarez in 2022-23 as he proved that he needs to be more than just a back-up for Man City going forward.
For now, he can be content with finishing as the most-decorated footballer on the planet for the 2022-23 campaign, meaning a Ballon d’Or nomination is a certainty.
9Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)
In 2022-23: 36 goals, 11 assists. Won La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.
Lewandowski’s chances of ever getting his hands on the Ballon d’Or might now have gone, but he did at least keep up his superb record of winning league titles by firing Barca back to the top of Spanish football.
That he managed it despite the odd lull in form is testament to his ability as he approaches his 35th birthday.
8Victor Osimhen (Napoli)
In 2022-23: 33 goals, five assists. Won Serie A.
Osimhen will forever be immortalised in Naples after his goal sealed the Partenopei’s first Serie A title for 33 years, and it was only right after the season he had that the Nigerian striker was the man to finish the job.
Now attention turns to whether Napoli can keep hold of Europe’s most-wanted forward this summer.
7Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: 13 goals, seven assists. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Barcelona are going to have an elite player on their hands once Gundogan officially arrives at Camp Nou, and one who has proven he can come up clutch when his team needs him the most.
The midfielder’s pair of braces against Leeds and Everton effectively sealed the Premier League title for City, before his stunning double at Wembley proved to be the difference in the FA Cup final win over Manchester United.
6Rodri (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: Four goals, seven assists. Won Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Nations League & FA Cup.
The best holding midfielder in the world? Rodri may well have earned that honour now, with the Spain international having become a hugely consistent performer for City over the course of the season.
No outfield player started more than his 52 games for City in 2022-23, and he saved the best for last, netting the winning goal in the Champions League final.
5Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: 10 goals, 32 assists. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Thirty-two assists! De Bruyne truly is the best playmaker of his generation, and the way he rounded into form over the course of the season was key to City hitting the heights they did over the final few months of the campaign.
His injury luck in Champions League finals may no be the best, but at least the Belgian finished on the winning side this time to finally get his hands on the European Cup.
4Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)
Last time: 4th
In 2022-23: 25 goals, 26 assists. Won Copa del Rey, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.
Given everything that Vinicius had to put up with from opposition fans in Spain over the course of the season, his form was superb, with it now confirmed that he is among that small group that can be dubbed world-class.
Falling short in the Champions League will likely mean he misses out on the Ballon d’Or podium this time around, but everything about the Brazilian profiles as a future winner of the award.
3Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
In 2022-23: 55 goals, 14 assists. Won Ligue 1.
Mbappe himself believes he has done enough to win the Ballon d’Or in 2023, and it isn’t difficult to build a case for him to do just that. He scored over 50 goals for club and country, won yet another league title, and won the Golden Boot at the World Cup after scoring a hat-trick in the final.
However, coming up short in Qatar and the lack of a deep Champions League run is likely to cost him what feels like an inevitable first Ballon d’Or this time around.
2Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
In 2022-23: 56 goals, nine assists. Won Champions League, Premier League & FA Cup.
Haaland broke countless records over the course of the season, and there was a time in late April that it seemed inevitable he would move to the top of the Ballon d’Or rankings come the end of the campaign.
However, a run of just one goal in his final eight games for City means he will likely come up short in 2023, even though it was his goals that played a massive role in Pep Guardiola’s side winning the treble.
1Lionel Messi (Inter Miami)
Last time: 1st
In 2022-23: 42 goals, 26 assists. Won World Cup, Ligue 1 & Trophee des Champions.
Messi did his best to throw an eighth Ballon d’Or away with his stuttering form during the second half of the season, but in the end his iconic World Cup win is likely to be enough to earn him yet another Golden Ball.
With it now more likely than ever that he is done with European football, though, does it mean it will be his eighth and final win of the award?