Agathe Vanmassenhove || Sports Reporter
On Monday, October 30th, the long-awaited ceremony for the Ballon d’Or award was held in Paris. The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award in soccer, awarded after a vote polling sports journalists across the world. Forwards are usually favored to win this award, as they are usually the players with the most impact on the game as a whole, evidenced by their high scoring and assist statistics.
The favorites to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or were: Lionel Messi, who helped win Argentina the 2022 World Cup; Erling Haaland, who set the record for the youngest player to score 50 goals while leading the Premier League in scoring 56 goals and also winning a continental “treble,” a term used for the achievement of three championships within a single season (FA Cup, Premier League, and Champions League); and Kylian Mbappe, who had great seasons with both PSG and the French National team, where he scored three goals in the final minutes of the 2022 World Cup final to send the game to penalty kicks, before France’s eventual loss to Argentina.
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Lionel Messi added to his already-legendary resume, winning his 8th Ballon d’Or (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021, 2023), and setting the record for most career Ballon d’Or awards. This is likely Messi’s final Ballon d’Or, as he and Cristiano Ronaldo step aside to let the new generation shine after ten years of dominance. He was followed by Haaland and Kylian Mbappe in second and third place respectively. This was a controversial decision in the soccer world. Many fans thought Haaland, who won three championships in a single season while also setting the scoring record, had a more impressive year than his counterparts. Haaland had to make do with the Muller trophy, given to the player who scores the most goals. Fans felt like Messi’s victory in the World Cup played too large of a role in the voting, as Haaland had the more impressive individual year. Similarly, in 2018, Antoine Griezmann lost the Ballon d’Or to Luka Modric, despite Griezmann’s France defeating Modric’s Croatia for the World Cup. Griezmann, who once again had an incredible World Cup with Les Bleus, failed to make the top ten in voting, finishing 21st.
Despite Mbappe being considered one of the best players in the world, many fans feel that he must leave PSG if he ever wants to win the Ballon d’Or. Real Madrid has been interested in the French forward for the past few years, but nothing has materialized as of now. Perhaps this summer could mark a change, as Mbappe could join Jude Bellingham in Madrid, who is having a tremendous season so far, winning the Kopa trophy, which is awarded to the best player under 21 in the world.
The Yashin Trophy, awarded to the best goalkeeper in the world, was won by Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, despite his World Cup, in which he allowed three goals in the last minutes of the championship game, all to one player (Kylian Mbappe). Martinez’s victory was surprising considering within the Ballon d’Or rankings, he was behind Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. French fans whistled at Martinez as he received his award, revenge for the “unsportsmanlike” conduct that Martinez showed in his celebrations after winning the World Cup. In addition, some Argentinian fans were seen burning dolls resembling Mbappe and mocking the French team, following the example of Martinez. For French fans, it felt wrong to give Martinez the award despite his disrespect towards their country.
In women’s soccer, only the Ballon d’Or is awarded, this year going to FC Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati, following her teammate Alexia Putellas’s two consecutive victories. Bonmati had a tremendous season where she not only won a treble with FC Barcelona (Copa del Rey, La Liga, and the Champions League) but also won the Women’s World Cup with Spain.
With long-time favorites Messi and Ronaldo considered to be nearing the ends of their respective careers, younger players like Haaland and Mbappe will take their places as potential favorites for the 2024 Ballon d’Or. It will be interesting to see what players step up to become the greatest soccer players in the world.
Sophomore Agathe Vanmassenhove is a Sports Reporter. Her email is email@example.com