"It will be played between the two" - Alain Giresse names player who could compete with Lionel Messi for 2023 Ballon d'Or, and it's not Haaland

The 1982 Ballon d
The 1982 Ballon d'Or runner-up backs Messi (left) to battle Mbappe (not in pic) and not Haaland for the accolade.

France legend Alain Giresse has backed Lionel Messi and his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe to battle it out for the 2023 Ballon d'Or award

The former PSG teammates are expected to be among the frontrunners for the accolade in October. The attacking duo have enjoyed stellar 2022-23 campaigns for club and country.

Messi, 35, scored 21 goals and provided 20 assists in 41 games across competitions. Meanwhile, Mbappe, 24, bagged 41 goals and ten assists in 43 matches. Both were instrumental in the Parisians' Ligue 1 triumph.

Giresse has predicted that the winner of the Ballon d'Or will be one of the pair. He also namedropped Manchester City striker Erling Haaland who helped his side win the Champions League with 12 goals in 11 games, saying (via French Football Weekly):

“Mbappe and Messi both position themselves through the World Cup, Haaland the Champions League. These players emerge from major competitions that put them in the spotlight more than others. In addition, on an individual level, they have skills such that we can put them in the top three."

Giresse then points out that there aren't many other options for the accolade. He does mention Haaland's City teammate Kevin De Bruyne but foresees it being a two-horse race between Messi and Mbappe:

"Then, who to add? Not easy. Argentina? No. The French team ? No. Manchester City? De Bruyne was in the trio last year (3rd). It’s difficult, I don’t see any others. A favourite? Messi-Mbappe, it will be played between the two."

Lionel Messi and Mbappe went head-to-head at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where the Argentine icon came out on top. His La Abiceleste side beat Les Bleus on penalties in the final. In the final, the duo conjured up masterful performances. Messi bagged a brace, while Mbappe scored a hat-trick in the pulsating 3-3 draw after extra time.

Messi, who's set to join Inter Miami, was awarded the Golden Ball for his exploits in Qatar, scoring seven goals and providing three assists in seven games. Meanwhile, the PSG striker won the Golden Boot with eight goals in seven outings.

It's difficult to separate the two ahead of the Ballon d'Or award ceremony in October. If Messi picks up the accolade, it will be for a record-extending eighth time, while Mbappe is looking to win his first.

However, Haaland, 22, may have something to say in the race for the prestigious accolade. The City striker bagged 52 goals in 53 games across competitions as Pep Guardiola's men won their first continental treble, becoming only the second English club to do so.

Lionel Messi isn't too fussed about winning Ballon d'Or

Lionel Messi is more focused on winning as part of a team.
Lionel Messi is more focused on winning as part of a team.

Lionel Messi is used to winning the Ballon d'Or, having done so a record seven times. The Argentine won the accolade in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup winner wasn't even nominated for last year's award. However, he's the frontrunner to win this year but has downplayed the significance of winning individual awards at this stage in his career:

"Does Ballon d’Or matter to me? No, at this stage in my life, it is no longer important to me. I’ve always said, the individual prizes are not what matters to me, but the collective ones are the most important to me. The most important prize at the moment is the World Cup. This is the greatest prize for me."

Messi is two ahead of his longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of Ballon d'Or wins. The Argentine icon has another opportunity to add yet another accomplishment to his long list of illustrious feats.

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Edited by Matthew Guyett