We're just a little over a month away from the 2022 Ballon d'Or ceremony. The 66th annual Ballon d'Or ceremony will take place on October 17. It is being conducted earlier this year as the 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to take place in November and December.
The Ballon d'Or is the most prestigious individual prize in football. It is presented by French news magazine 'France Football' to the best performing footballer in a calendar year. The winner is chosen on the basis of a combination of votes from representatives of the media, national team captains and coaches.
There are plenty of players who've performed extremely well over the last year or so. It's almost certain that we're going to have a brand new Ballon d'Or winner this time around. Without further ado, let's take a look at the top five favorites to win the award as on September 5.
#5 Kylian Mbappe (France/Paris Saint-Germain)
Kylian Mbappe had a spectacular season at an individual level last term. He looked unstoppable for the majority of the 2021-22 campaign and terrorized defenses all across Europe. However, Paris Saint-Germain's failure in Europe is expected to cost him in the Ballon d'Or race.
Mbappe won the Ligue 1 title and the UEFA Nations League title last term. He also scored 39 goals and provided 26 assists in 46 appearances across all competitions for the Parisians in the 2021-22 season. He was the top scorer and top assist provider in Ligue 1 last term.
Although Mbappe is unlikely to finish on the Ballon d'Or podium this time, 2023 could very well be his year if he and PSG continue playing the way they have so far this season. He has already scored seven goals in five Ligue 1 appearances so far in the 2022-23 campaign.
#4 Vinicius Jr. (Brazil/Real Madrid)
Vinicius Jr. was arguably the most improved player in Europe in the 2021-22 season. The Brazilian forward was in sublime form as he doubled down on his strengths and upgraded his game to finally start delivering on his promise.
Vinicius is one of the best dribblers in the business and he is a nightmare to defend against thanks to his silky skills and blistering pace. The 22-year-old had a breakout campaign last term, scoring 22 goals and providing 20 assists in 52 appearances across all competitions for Real Madrid.
Vinicius won the Champions League title, La Liga title and the Supercopa de Espana last term with Real Madrid. He has got off to a good start to the new campaign as well, scoring three goals and providing one assist in four La Liga appearances so far.
We wouldn't be very surprised if he makes the Ballon d'Or podium this year.
#3 Robert Lewandowski (Poland/Barcelona)
Could this finally be Robert Lewandowski's year as far as the Ballon d'Or is concerned? To put it bluntly, it doesn't look like it, but that's largely down to a lack of silverware.
Lewandowski picked up a second successive European Golden Shoe in his last season with Bayern Munich, scoring 35 goals in the league.
However, the Bavarians could only win the Bundesliga title and that does not seem heavy enough to tip the scales in Lewandowski's favor with respect to the Ballon d'Or. He scored 50 goals and provided seven assists in 46 appearances across all competitions for Bayern Munich last season.
The 34-year-old also guided Poland to World Cup qualification last term. Lewandowski has got off to a good start to life at his new club Barcelona, scoring five goals in four La Liga appearances so far this season.
#2 Sadio Mane (Senegal/Liverpool)
The way things were going for Sadio Mane in the early stages of the 2021-22 season, no one could have predicted just how drastically things would turn around for him. Mane turned up the heat for both club and country and enjoyed a thoroughly successful campaign.
He was named the 'Best Player of the Tournament' as he guided Senegal to 2021 AFCON glory. Mane also helped his national team secure World Cup qualification. He scored 23 goals and provided five assists in 51 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool in the 2021-22 season.
The 30-year-old also won the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup with the Merseysiders. He was their main man in the second half of the season as they tried to hustle their way to a history defining quadruple but eventually fell just short. Mane was recently named the 'CAF Player of the Year' as well.
Mane has since secured a move to Bayern Munich and is enjoying life in the Bundesliga. He has scored five goals in seven league appearances for the Bavarians so far this term.
#1 Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid)
He was consistent throughout the season and produced match-winning performances in most of Real Madrid's biggest games of the campaign.
The Frenchman scored hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals of the Champions League respectively. He also bagged a brace against Manchester City in the semi-finals. It's worth noting that Benzema scored the winning goals in all three ties.
He has been phenomenal in recent times and Benzema should win a well-deserved Ballon d'Or this year.