The Ballon d'Or is the most prestigious individual prize in football. The award is presented by French news magazine 'France Football' to the best performing individual of the season.
The winner of the Ballon d'Or is chosen on the basis of a combination of votes from media representatives, national team captains and coaches.
Karim Benzema picked up the much-coveted award in 2022. The race for the 2023 Ballon d'Or is well and truly on, and the results of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are likely to have a huge say on the outcome.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the five favorites for the Ballon d'Or this year.
#5 Neymar Jr. (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain)
Neymar Jr. was arguably the most in-form player in the world in the first couple of months of the 2022-23 season. The Brazil international seemed to have turned back the clock as he delivered world-class performances for Paris Saint-Germain week in and week out.
However, Neymar had his World Cup dream cut short in the quarter-final stage. He struggled for form and fitness during the tournament but his numbers for PSG continue to be exemplary.
In 25 appearances across all competitions for the Parisians so far this season, Neymar has scored 17 goals and provided 15 assists.
#4 Robert Lewandowski (Poland/Barcelona)
Robert Lewandowski struggled to hit his stride for Poland at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Lewandowski endured a difficult time at what could be his final World Cup but he has been on fire at club level. The 34-year-old joined Barcelona from Bayern Munich last summer.
He has shown Barca what they've lacked in the attacking department over the past couple of seasons. Lewandowski has been prolific in front of goal and his form has propelled them to the top of the La Liga table.
Lewandowski has been a strong contender for the Ballon d'Or in recent years and it's likely to stay that way in 2023 as well. In 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona so far this season, the Polish icon has scored 23 goals and provided five assists.
#3 Erling Haaland (Norway/Manchester City)
Norway's failure to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup might have hampered Erling Haaland's chances in the 2023 Ballon d'Or race. But he is making a great case for himself in the domestic season at his new club Manchester City.
Haaland is a goalscoring machine and he has taken the Premier League by storm this term. The 22-year-old has already scored a whopping 31 goals and provided three assists in 27 appearances across all competitions for Pep Guardiola's side this season.
If Haaland can win a couple of major trophies with City this term, he might just go on to win the Ballon d'Or.
#2 Kylian Mbappe (France/Paris Saint-Germain)
You've got to feel for Kylian Mbappe. The 24-year-old scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final but failed to get France over the line. Mbappe won the Golden Boot at the tournament and has been in sublime form for PSG as well.
Mbappe has scored 25 goals and provided six assists in 26 appearances in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain so far this season.
The Frenchman is likely to win a couple of major trophies this season and that should boost his chances in the Ballon d'Or race. But it doesn't help that the top contender for the Ballon d'Or is his teammate, Lionel Messi.
#1 Lionel Messi (Argentina/Paris Saint-Germain)
Lionel Messi is well on course to win a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or. He fired Argentina to World Cup glory and won the Golden Ball given to the best player in the tournament. Messi was in imperious form, scoring seven goals and providing three assists in the World Cup.
He has been in unreal form for PSG as well this term. The 35-year-old has scored 14 goals and provided 14 assists in 23 appearances in all competitions for Christopher Galtier's side so far this season.
If Messi keeps this up, he is likely to stroll his way to the top of the Ballon d'Or podium.
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