The coveted Ballon d’Or title has been held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the majority of the last 15 years. They will play in Saudi Arabia and the USA, respectively, next season.
While the only other winner during that time, 37-year-old Luka Modric, is nearing the end of his illustrious career despite reportedly agreeing to stay at Real Madrid next season, Karim Benzema has followed in Ronaldo’s footsteps by moving to Saudi Arabia.
Haaland, Bellingham, Vinicius, Mbappe: Who will win the 2024 Ballon d’Or?
After leading Argentina to its first World Cup victory since 1986 last winter, Messi is widely predicted to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or, but who will take over in 2024?
Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid
Why Bellingham is “worth £130m”: A Dortmund perspective
Bellingham, one of the best players at the 2014 World Cup in Qatar, joined Real Madrid for an initial fee of 103 million euros (£88.5 million), making him the second-most expensive English player ever and the third-most expensive teenager in history.
Although he was unable to lead the Bundesliga team to its first league championship in 11 years, he thrived in his final campaign in Germany, becoming the club’s youngest captain at the age of just 19 in October of last year.
In 42 games in 2022–23, Bellingham, who transferred from Birmingham City to Dortmund for £25 million in 2020, scored 14 goals and provided seven assists. The midfielder is hoping to continue his extraordinary career trajectory in the Spanish capital after rejecting a number of Europe’s elite teams in favour of the 14-time European champions.
Erling Haaland – Manchester City
In his debut season playing football in England, Haaland assisted in leading Manchester City to a treble.
The prolific Norwegian is undoubtedly the most obvious successor to Ronaldo, Messi, and company because he is the first player to win both the Premier League Player and Young Player of the Year trophies in the same season.
Haaland broke the previous greatest mark, which Alan Shearer and Andy Cole (34) had held for nearly three decades, in his first season in England’s top division with 36 goals.
The 22-year-old scored 52 goals in 53 games to finish the season, making him just the second player in English top-flight history and the first in 95 years to reach that mark.
He now has 229 goals in his club and national career and is on pace to surpass Ronaldo’s 837-goal record.
Vinicius Jr. – Real Madrid
Vinicius was referred to as the “most decisive player anywhere in the world” and “the one who determines matches most consistently” by head coach Carlo Ancelotti following Madrid’s thrashing of Liverpool in the Champions League’s last 16 back in March.
The Brazilian finished the 2021–22 season with 23 goals and 21 assists across all competitions, which was third most among players in Europe’s top-flight leagues behind Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. The Brazilian terrorised Manchester City’s defence with his pace and trickery in the 2021–22 semi-finals before scoring the game-winning goal against Liverpool in the final.
Last season, Vinicius was repeatedly the object of racial insults, but one incident in Valencia featuring Vinicius aroused uproar in both Spain and Brazil.
Following that, seven people received punishment for their racist actions; Valencia was punished with a partial stadium closure; and Vinicius was chosen by Fifa to join a brand-new anti-racism task force.
Kylian Mbappe – Paris St. Germain
Since moving to Paris St-Germain from Monaco in 2017, the prolific Frenchman has scored 212 goals and provided 98 assists in 260 appearances, helping the Qatari-owned team win 13 domestic championships.
Mbappe played a crucial role in France’s World Cup victory in 2018, and he has scored 38 goals in 88 games for Les Blues, moving him up to fifth on the club’s all-time scoring chart, just 15 goals behind current leader Olivier Giroud.
Despite recording the first final hat-trick since England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966, Argentina, led by Messi, prevented him from winning back-to-back World Cups.
He has informed PSG that he will not be renewing his contract past 2024, so if the French champions decide to sell the striker this summer, there will be no shortage of buyers.
Neymar – Paris St. Germain
Even though the Brazilian is no longer a teenager at age 31, Neymar is still widely regarded as one of the game’s brightest players.
Despite missing the final three months of the season due to ankle ligament injuries, the winger had 35 goals in all competitions last season.
With his goal against Croatia in the World Cup quarterfinal in November, Neymar tied Pele’s 77-goal ‘official’ men’s scoring mark for Brazil. It won’t be long before he has the undisputed record.