There’s no doubt that France Football are highly likely to present World Cup-winning Lionel Messi with a record eighth Ballon d’Or on the 30th October at the Théâtre du Châtelet. But, without even mentioning their name, I’m sure you can ruminate about who is most deserving of the title.
Messi - the favourite, and for a reason. The seven-time winner helped Argentina to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and has taken his place many times on stage to receive the award when others could’ve quite easily prospered. His popularity soars evermore.
However, there’s a certain Norwegian striker with a stupefying footballing ability which makes one perplexed as to whether he’s actually human. If you want a safe bet week-after-week then it would be for Erling Haaland to score, yet it’s unlikely to make you rich with it being so probable to happen.
Sensational, astonishing, breath-taking and remarkable, are some describing words for the 23-year-old. As Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville put it: “He’s a battering ram of a centre forward with a brilliant finish, with something really special. If you watch him play you are watching something unique.”
Haaland was the best player in the world last season, and still is in the present. There’s almost no debating it.
The former Borussia Dortmund striker cost Manchester City an initial £51.3m, which has turned out to be some bargain for what it’s brought them. Haaland helped Pep Guardiola's side to the incredible treble in ample amounts, even with it just being the forward’s first season with the side.
The bagsman was instrumental in the club’s success last season and continues to find the net each week, most recently with a hattrick against Fulham at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League.
Haaland was rightly named Young Player of the Season and Premier League Player of the Season for his contributions and became the first player to win both awards in the same year. His contributions came in abundance as he broke the Premier League record for the most goals scored in a single campaign, netting on 36 occasions in just 35 matches. The striker also scored 12 goals in the Champions League, which was more than any other player in the competition, and aided City in ample amounts on their journey towards lifting the trophy for the first time in their history in Istanbul.
Furthermore, Haaland extended his goal scoring ability to when he represented his nation. The Norwegian scored 53 goals in all competitions (including the community shield) for Manchester City in the 2022/23 season and claimed nine assists. If the striker isn’t scoring the goals himself, he’s likely to have set them up or at least be involved.
Norway head coach Stale Solbakken believed his striker will be snubbed at the global soccer event in France and see Messi given his eighth Ballon d’Or. The coach told Norwegian outlet VG: "If you ask me who I think will win, I will say Messi will win it thanks to his World Cup triumph. It still has an impact." Solbakken has a right to presume this, Messi’s popularity will be great and after delivering the World Cup trophy that he and Argentina so longed for, he is sure to be recognised for this. But, the question you have to ask yourself is, does this make Messi the best player in the world?
Haaland has to be the clear front runner if this is what it is truly judged by, he was head and shoulders above the rest, and despite not claiming a World Cup title like his competitor, Haaland ruled in other ways.
Leading Manchester City to the treble speaks for itself, Haaland filled the gap that Manchester City needed filling. With Sergio Aguero’s departure a hole was left, but the 23-year-old Norwegian has already lived up to the Argentine’s standard and even surpassed it.
Haaland has the aura that strikes fear into the opposition, just like Messi, and last season he was immense. The striker believes that he has a strong chance - as he should - of taking the award this year.
Speaking to Ballon d'Or organisers France Football before the tournament, the City striker said: "In my mind... it all depends on what we mean by striker. It's a trick question. I'm definitely up there. Am I the best? Maybe.
"I know I can still improve a great deal. I'm still young. But yes, I believe I have a chance this year."
The striker performed all-season round at the best level of football in the Premier League, and helped his side storm to another title. Moreover, claiming the Champions League and FA Cup trophies - he and his side were unstoppable. If Erling Haaland claims the Ballon d’Or there is no denying he deserves it, but the popularity of the ‘little man from Rosario’ unfortunately may stand in his way. Who do you think will win the Ballon d’Or?