It has promised to be a unique battle for the Ballon d’Or, with the World Cup taking place in the middle of the 2022-23 campaign, meaning it could be a distant memory by the time voting comes in August.
However, there is no doubt that playing a starring role in Qatar has increased the chances of some players to compete for the Ballon d’Or, even with the knockout stages of the Champions League now in full swing.
1. Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 1st
In 2022-23: 37 goals, 24 assists. Won World Cup & Trophee des Champions.
Messi’s attacking numbers, on top of his influence on Argentina’s World Cup win, make him an obvious Ballon d’Or winner, but his poor form in 2023 and now suspension by PSG is not the lasting impression he will have wanted to leave on the judges.
Is Golden Ball number eight slipping away from the Argentine?
2. Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
Last time: 2nd
In 2022-23: 52 goals, eight assists.
Here’s a hypothetical question for you: If Haaland finishes the season with at least 60 goals, Man City win the treble, and Lionel Messi doesn’t play another minute for PSG, who wins the Ballon d’Or?
3. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 3rd
In 2022-23: 48 goals, 13 assists.
While much of the attention on PSG has been on Mbappe’s strike partner over the past couple of weeks, the Frenchman has quietly edged himself closer to 50 goals for the season across club and international football.
Those goals will lead to the Parisians winning Ligue 1 – but won’t be enough to end Mbappe’s wait for a first Ballon d’Or.
4. Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Last time: 4th
In 2022-23: 23 goals, 25 assists. Won Copa del Rey, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.
Vinicius has been in exceptional form over the past few weeks, with his superb assist for Madrid’s opener in the Copa del Rey final another example of just why he should now be regarded as one of world football’s very best players.
If he shows that again, then Man City’s treble hopes could yet be ended by Los Blancos.
5. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 5th
In 2022-23: 29 goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.
There has been some debate as to whether Benzema has been fully fit over the past few weeks, but if you can still score hat-tricks while not at 100 percent, then you must be a special player.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner is definitely that, and Man City’s defence will have to be on high alert to stop him in their Champions League semi-final.
6. Victor Osimhen (Napoli)
Last time: 6th
In 2022-23: 28 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’s 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.
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 8th
In 2022-23: Nine goals, 29 assists.
The final two months of the season are when De Bruyne truly comes into his own, and his form during the run-in has been key to City edging closer to winning the treble.
His match-winning display against Arsenal will likely go down as the game City won the Premier League title, and it would be a shock if he did not have a big say on who wins both the FA Cup and Champions League.
8. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli)
Last time: 7th
In 2022-23: 16 goals, 17 assists. Won Serie A.
‘Kvaradona’s’ form has not been 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 has been one of the signings of the season in European football, and remains one of the trickiest wingers to defend against anywhere on the continent.
9. Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)
Last time: 10th
In 2022-23: 31 goals, nine assists. Won Supercopa de Espana.
Lewandowski’s form in 2023 has hardly set the world alight, but it is his goals that now look certain to fire Barcelona to the title in La Liga.
His chances of ever winning a Ballon d’Or might have now gone as he approaches his 35th birthday, but the Poland striker continues to add to his growing trophy collection.
10. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Last time: 9th
In 2022-23: 32 goals, 11 assists. Won Carabao Cup.
Rashford’s form has dropped off since his hot streak around the turn of the year, and United could do with him getting back to his best down the final stretch.
Their hopes of securing Champions League football for next season could depend on it.