Predicting the Ballon d’Or 2024 contenders - including Man City and ex-Tottenham stars
Lionel Messi won a record eighth title at the 2023 awards on Monday evening.
and live on Freeview channel 276
We may have just witnessed the end of an era. On Monday evening, Lionel Messi was awarded his eighth a Ballon d’Or - a record tally that boasts more than a tinge of the unassailable. It is difficult, if not quite impossible, to envisage him winning a ninth. Now voluntarily consigned to a life of tormenting Chads, Brads, and Conrads in the MLS, the Argentine may have to settle for a new, lesser form of footballing relevancy; one that idolises billboards more than scoreboards.
And with Messi presumably sidling off into the sunset and his perma-tanned nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly quite content to build sandcastles in empty stadiums as part of his role as poster boy for the Saudi Pro League, we might, incomprehensibly, be finally reaching the end of an epoch-defining duopoly. (No disrespect to Luka Modric, of course.)
With that in mind, we thought we would take a look ahead to the 2024 Ballon d’Or and post our early, speculative predictions on who might be in the running to win the shiniest sphere in all of football. Time marches on and we are but dandelion seeds in its wrathful hurricane. Shall we?
5th - Rodri
Without falling into the realms of ‘Tony Blackburn/Top of the Pops chart countdown’ here, we have a non-mover at number five. Fifth in the this year’s final standings, Rodri’s reputation continues to grow season by season as his significance to Manchester City’s unwavering title juggernaut becomes more and more apparent. You need only see how poorly the Premier League champions performed in his absence recently to understand just how important he is to their entire operation, and were it not for the cavalcade of talent ahead of him, he would absolutely be deserving of a more auspicious posting here.
Traditionally and generally speaking, players of a more defensive hue have not been adequately rewarded for their influence by the Ballon d’Or, but Rodri is a special, special presence, and with each passing campaign he only serves to reassert his claim as the most complete holding midfielder in the global game.
4th - Harry Kane
Maybe the most rascal shout on this list, but please, hear us out. Kane has always been a world class centre-forward, but time and time again we have seen that the Ballon d’Or tends to go to players in receipt of meaningful silverware. As we all know, and as various brainless meme accounts on social media will be quick to remind you, that is something that England captain has lacked in his career up to this point.
Now, however, he is plying his trade for Bayern Munich, and with that newfound employment status comes a near-guarantee of success. With 14 goals and seven assist in 13 outings for the Bavarian giants he is thriving on a personal level too, and the big question is whether that kind of return, combined with, say, a domestic double in Germany would be enough to land him football’s most literally-monikered accolade. Perhaps not, but if nothing else, it would surely bump him up a few spots from the 19th-place he took home this year.
3rd - Kylian Mbappe
This is where things get properly interesting. Mbappe is, of course, a world-beater, and will continue to be one of the best players in professional football for the next decade to come. Whether there is anything in his immediate future that justifies his nod for the top prize, however, remains to be seen.
Third this time around following a stunning World Cup campaign, the jet-heeled forward’s fate in 2024 may once again hinge on his chances of international glory with France. A European Championship trophy could bring with it a Ballon d’Or, but for the sake of English hearts, let us hope that does not happen.
2nd - Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham has arrived. Big style. The boy from Birmingham has made a seismic impact at Real Madrid, and is already drawing comparisons to the likes of French maestro Zinedine Zidane. Thirteen goals in 13 outings - and from midfield, no less - have taken everybody by surprise, and if he continues to produce those kind of figures then he will surely be catapulted into the conversation for the best player in the world.
Perhaps the scariest thing about Bellingham, however, is just how young he still is. The lad only turned 20 over the summer, and yet he already appears to have this football malarkey completely figured out. In truth, 2024 might be a little too soon for his Ballon d’Or ambitions, but all being well, he will surely win one at some point in the next decade or so.
1st - Erling Haaland
It just had to be, didn’t it? In truth, Haaland can probably feel somewhat aggrieved that he didn’t win the Ballon d’Or this season. After winning a treble with Manchester City and scoring 52 goals across 53 outings in the process, the Norwegian couldn’t really have done much more to stake his claim in 2023 - aside from having the forethought to be born in Argentina, perhaps.
If, however, Haaland can reproduce anything close to monstrous form again in the coming months, then you would have to imagine that he will be a shoe-in for the golden ball. If and when he does get his hands on it, don’t be surprised if it is the first of many.