Updated Ballon d’Or 2023 Rankings After Haaland Qualifies for Champions League Final

  • Lionel Messi’s perceived lead in the race for the 2023 Ballon d’Or award has been significantly narrowed
  • Erling Haaland is one win away from winning the Champions League and possibly changing the narrative
  • Messi’s FIFA World Cup win in December last year gave him a headstart as he seeks a record eighth title

Sometime in March this year, after Paris Saint-Germain had been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Bayern Munich, we predicted that the 2023 Ballon d’Or was a controversial spectacle waiting to happen.

Unlike in 2022, there is no clear winner, with Lionel Messi’s World Cup triumph complicating issues.

The question posed then was whether someone who had been eliminated from the Champions League so early could win the Ballon d’Or.

Admittedly, the World Cup takes precedence over European’s elite competition.

Luka Modric rode on his highs with Croatia in 2018 to break the Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly, although the midfield veteran had won the Champions League as well that year, as captured by Africa News.

Karim Benzema, Marcus Rashford, and Erling Haaland were backed as potential stars who could wrestle the title from Messi’s grasp.

Benz was in for his ability to inspire Real Madrid to a 15th Champions League title – a dream that has now ended with a sting after a 4-0 shellacking in Manchester on May 17.

But how the tables have since turned! The City striker has undeniably narrowed the gap on Messi or even surpassed him, depending on how you see it.

Rashford, at that time, couldn’t stop scoring, but his case was made hard by the fact that he wasn’t competing in the Champions League or for the Premier League title.

And at the time, Haaland was down the pecking order because it looked highly unlikely that Manchester City would close in on Arsenal and go within one win of defending the league again.

But how the tables have since turned! The City striker has undeniably narrowed the gap on Messi or even surpassed him, depending on how you see it.

Tie News takes a closer look at each contender

1. Lionel Messi

Messi’s early elimination from the Champions League notwithstanding, the Argentine delivered for his country in Qatar. He played a role in almost every game, bar their opening match against Saudi Arabia.

Apart from the World Cup, the 35-year-old has the Ligue 1 trophy in waiting, as well as the French cup. If you combine his assists and goals, he almost matches Haaland’s astronomical numbers.

He may still be the front-runner, with the World Cup lending him significant weight, but his 2023 form, coupled with disciplinary issues, could stand between him and another title.

2. Erling Haaland

Picture this, the Norwegian wins the Premier League (as early as this weekend), and then inspires his side against Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3, before rounding it off by winning the Champions League vs Inter Milan on June 10.

He then gets denied the Ballon d’Or – the question would be, what more could a man do?

Other possible Ballon d’Or winners

The other candidates won’t really offer much competition. Benzema and Vinicius Junior will only have the Copa Del Rey to show, with Robert Lewandowski currently outscoring them in Spain.

Rashford has hit a rough patch of form, and the only trophies he can realistically finish with are a domestic cup double.

Qatar 2022’s top scorer, Kylian Mbappe’s chances are dwarfed by Messi’s presence in the PSG team

SOURCE: Sportsbrief.com

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