The Ballon d'Or is undoubtedly the most prestigious individual prize in football. The 2022 Ballon d'Or will be presented at the ceremony, which is set to be held on 17 October. With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo out of contention, we're almost certain to have a new winner this time around.
The Ballon d'Or winner is decided on the basis of a combination of votes from media representatives, national team captains and coaches.
We're now a couple of months into the 2022-23 season and the race for next year's Ballon d'Or has already started. Some of Europe's best players have already made a statement as far as the race for football's highest individual honor is concerned.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five of the top favorites for the 2023 Ballon d'Or.
#5 Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City)
Whenever we think that Kevin De Bruyne has probably hit his ceiling by virtue of how ridiculously good he plays football, he raises it. The Belgium international is indefatigable in his quest to improve himself and has been in prime playmaking form in the opening stages of the new season.
It's nothing we didn't expect to see, but De Bruyne and Erling Haaland have bowled us over with the level of telepathic understanding they share. The 31-year-old is likely to go down in history as one of the greatest footballers of the modern era and for good reason.
In 11 appearances across all competitions so far this season, De Bruyne has scored one goal and provided 10 assists. He also scored a goal and provided an assist in Belgium's 2-1 win over Wales in the UEFA Nations League on September 22.
#4 Robert Lewandowski (Poland/Barcelona)
Robert Lewandowski may or may not win that elusive Ballon d'Or award in his career, but you just cannot fault the man for not trying. The winner of the European Golden Shoe for the last two seasons, Lewandowski copped a switch to Barcelona this summer.
The move has worked out to near perfection so far. The all-time Poland top scorer has hit the ground running at the Camp Nou and has shown the Catalans just how good they can be with an out-and-out striker.
In nine appearances across all competitions for the Blaugrana, Lewandowski has scored 12 goals and provided three assists.
#3 Lionel Messi (Argentina/Paris Saint-Germain)
It looks like Lionel Messi's struggles from his debut season at Paris Saint-Germain could be chalked down to post-Barcelona blues. It's certainly not that his age is catching up with him and that he has proved emphatically in the opening stages of the new season.
Messi is not the thunderbolt he used to be, but the 35-year-old continues to create moments of magic on the football pitch with his technical wizardy. The Argentina icon has been in terrific form for both club and country this term.
Messi has scored seven goals and provided eight assists in 12 appearances across all competitions for PSG so far this season. He also scored four goals across two appearances for Argentina, against Honduras and Jamaica, in the recent international break.
Could Messi win a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or next year? Well, you just can't put it past him with the form he is in.
#2 Neymar Jr. (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain)
Neymar Jr. has proved many a times that he is one of the best attackers of the modern era. But he seems to be hell bent on taking it one step further this term. The Brazil international has been in scintillating form for Paris Saint-Germain in the early stages of the 2022-23 season.
He has been showing off his exquisite finishing and playmaking skills and it's hard for anyone to take their eyes off him when he's going about his business. The 30-year-old manages to jink past players with elegance and outsmart defenders and goalkeepers like it's child's play.
In 12 appearances across all competitions for PSG so far this season, Neymar has scored 11 goals and provided eight assists. He also found the back of the net for Brazil in the recent international break in the Selecao's 5-1 win over Tunisia (September 27).
Neymar also gave two assists in the 3-0 friendly win over Ghana on 24 September. He is definitely an early favorite for next year's Ballon d'Or.
#1 Erling Haaland (Norway/Manchester City)
Erling Haaland is best described as an absolute force of nature. It wouldn't be hyperbolic to suggest that he has had an unprecedented level of impact in the Premier League in the opening stages of the new campaign.
The Norway international has scored three hat-tricks in his first eight Premier League appearances. His movement, finishing and sheer game intelligence belies his age and the 22-year-old has been tearing his opponents to shreds for Manchester City.
In 11 appearances across all competitions so far this season, Haaland has scored a whopping 17 goals and provided three assists. If he keeps this up, he is going to stroll to the 2023 Ballon d'Or. He also scored a goal for Norway against Slovenia (September 24) in a losing affair (2-1) during the latest international break.