With a World Cup in the middle of the season, the next Ballon d'Or winner already has a first and last name. The Champions League may take away the favoritism of Lionel Messi.
Photo: Hossein Zohrevand
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: ¿Está ya definido el Balón de Oro de 2023 en favor de Lionel Messi?
Traditionally, when the Ballon d'Or takes place in a World Cup year, the performance of the players in the tournament affects the voting. The immediacy between an event and the choice of the winner has a significant influence.
This is how in 2018, Luka Modric (runner-up in the world and champion of the Champions League) was chosen as the best player, and in third place was Antoine Griezmann (world champion with France). In 2014, even though Cristiano Ronaldo won the Champions League and it was enough for him to win the Ballon d'Or, the finalists Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer (runner-up and champion of that year) appear in second and third place.
In 2010, only Messi could surpass Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández, who recently won the World Cup with Spain. In 2006, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon, and Thierry Henry finished first, second and third, after the Italian title and the French runner-up. In 2002, Ronaldo has voted the best player in the world after winning the world cup. His teammate Roberto Carlos and his rival Oliver Kahn completed the podium.
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However, after the FIFA calendar had to be modified to hold the Qatar 2022 World Cup in winter, due to the high temperatures in the emirate, both events are far apart in time. The next ceremony is speculated to take place in the second half of 2023.
This explains why last year, 2022, (World Cup year) the winner of the most prestigious individual award in football went to Karim Benzema. No one denies the season the Frenchman had at his club, Real Madrid. A destabilizing play that is undoubtedly in the history of football. However, if the World Cup had counted in 2022, surely Benzema would have had less support since due to injury problems (and even rumors of technical decisions) he did not participate in the most important sporting event of the year, the World Cup in Qatar. . even though France itself did qualify for the final and lost on penalties against Argentina.
Well, the most logical thing would be that for the next Ballon d'Or election, the winner would be part of the world champion team. Within the Argentine team, there were important performance peaks, such as Emiliano Martínez, Ángel Di María, and Cristian Romero, among others. But if there is a clear protagonist of this title, it is neither more nor less than Lionel Messi. The PSG superstar has everything going for him to be the Ballon d'Or winner.
All in favor of the flea
Messi almost already has his name written on the award. Mainly, because in Argentina, his image was the protagonist, and the one most responsible for obtaining the long-awaited World Cup. In addition, he is not only the world champion, but he also maintains himself in Europe at a high level and in a club that aspires to win the Champions League.
Additionally, if we look at other candidates to be the best in the world, there are Kilian Mbappe and Neymar Jr. Since none of these were world champions, they could only aspire to a stellar performance at their club. However, both play in the same team as Messi, which means that if they were champions of the Champions League to enter the bid for the Ballon d'Or, they would also make Messi almost undestroyable (double champion in the season). It seems that Lionel Messi is on track to get his eighth Ballon d'Or, moving away from Cristiano Ronaldo, his greatest pursuer with only 5 awards.
Other candidates like Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Vinicius Jr., or Luka Modric, who today also compete in high-level clubs and also aspire to the Champions League, did not achieve Messi's level in Qatar. Modric was barely able to take third place.
In addition, Erling Haaland, Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mané, or Karim Benzema will only be able to compete with Messi with a Champions League title, but none could compete in the World Cup, either because their team did not qualify or because injuries prevented them from participating.
Not fully defined
However, the distance in dates for the trophy to be delivered does not completely define the choice of the Ballon d'Or. A football tragedy for PSG and a great performance by other stars would make the bid more even. If Manchester City wins the Champions League with a splendid Haaland, he could question several.
Or even something unusual, a serious injury to Messi that prevents him from competing for the rest of the season, could benefit Mbappe. Suppose before the Ballon d'Or ceremony, Mbappé arrives as Champions League champion (without Messi) and finalist and star in the World Cup. In that case, it may generate the necessary arguments to dispute it with the Argentine.
Messi today indeed has all the arguments to win the award for the best footballer of the season. But the problem is that the prize is not delivered now but for several months.