For the past 14 years, the Ballon d’Or list of winners has been a two-man battle. Lionel Messi has won the record seven times, with Cristiano Ronaldo five times behind him.
At the time, Luka Modric was the only one to break their tenure, winning the 2018 prize.
However, the Messi-Ronaldo season is nearing its end, and this has left open the Ballon d’Or race.
This year’s prize program will see a big change. Instead of being based on a calendar year, a period is now determined. It will be awarded in October, which means the World Cup will have no effect.
With the club season nearing its end, and no international competitions coming this summer, players have little time left to apply for their prizes. The UEFA Champions League final looks set to be a crucial decision.
Here are the big candidates for the 2022 Ballon d’Or.
At the time of writing, Karim Benzema is a favorite of the Ballon d’Or writers. And, to be honest, it’s not hard to see why.
The Frenchman has enjoyed his season of scoring the most goals. He has scored 43 goals in all competitions in many appearances, making him the leading scorer in La Liga and the Champions League. In comparison, his previous best was 32 in 2011/12.
On top of that, he has also helped with 13 goals. His 56 straight goals are more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues, two ahead of Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe.
His performance in Europe made the 34-year-old a standout performer in the tournament. In the Champions League semi-finals, he has always been amazed.
He scored a series of hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the 16th round and quarter-finals and then scored three in two legs against Manchester City to reach Real Madrid in the final.
If he hits another one, he will set a record for most goals scored in a single season, held by Ronaldo.
Earlier in the season, Mohamed Salah appeared to be the first Ballon d’Or favorite. He started the season in a blunt manner, scoring goals or assisting in 21 of the 23 games he first appeared.
Since then, he has slowed down somewhat, but the Egyptian has produced some amazing shows. As things stand, he is in line to become the third player in Premier League history to finish the season with the most goals AND assistants, behind Andy Cole (1993/94), Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (1998/99), and Harry Kane (2020/21). This makes him an outstanding PFA player.
Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League final in May earlier this week, beating Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate. Nine of the last 14 Ballon d’Or awards go to win the Champions League.
Considering that Salah has been the Reds’ best player for most of the campaign, he is likely to take first place if they put their hands on the trophy.
Salah is not the only Liverpool player to run. Fellow teammate Sadio Mane also came to light recently after the 2022 victory.
As an individual, the former Southampton man has enjoyed another wonderful year. He has 24 goals in all competitions, as well as five assistants.
Although, Mane’s claim to the Ballon d’Or is mostly under-reported. Liverpool are still looking for an unprecedented quadruple – they have won the Carabao Cup in February, are one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League, and will host the Champions League and FA Cup finals.
In addition, Mane was an integral part of the Senegalese team that won the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the Player of the Tournament. This undoubtedly gives him a limit on Salah.
If Madrid win the Champions League, Benzema will win the Ballon d’Or – no doubt there. If not, it can go to any of the three selected ones.
Robert Lewandowski – It sounds hard that Lewandowski no longer has the Ballon d’Or in his name. The Polish midfielder was the winner of the award in 2020 before its cancellation, and many felt he was the best winner in 2021 before Lionel Messi.
He has also been a top scorer, scoring 49 goals in all competitions. What will cost him, however, is Bayern Munich’s exit from the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the hands of underdogs Villarreal.
Kylian Mbappe – Mbappe is one who will miss the award mainly due to his team’s failure in Europe. He was one of the favorites at first, but his chances were curtailed by the dismissal of Paris Saint-Germain in the 16th round.
As an individual, a young Frenchman cannot be blamed. He has 35 goals and 19 assists, including hitting both legs against Madrid.
Kevin De Bruyne – Until last night, De Bruyne was in the Ballon d’Or race. If Manchester City won their first European title, the Belgian would be one of the favorites.
However, their fall at the Bernabeu left him without a trace. However, with 15 goals, nine assistants, and a Premier League trophy on the way, it has been another good year for the midfielder.