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Ballon d'Or 2023 Power Rankings: Has Messi ended the race with World Cup triumph?

12:00 GMT+3 19/12/2022
Lionel Messi Argentina 2022
The race to win the Golden Ball is well and truly on, with performances in Qatar likely to have a huge say on the outcome

It might seem like it was only a few weeks ago that Karim Benzema was picking up the 2022 Ballon d'Or, but the race for the 2023 award is already picking up plenty of steam.

It promises to be a unique Ballon d'Or battle, with the World Cup taking place in the middle of the 2022-23 campaign, meaning it could be a distant memory by the time votes are cast.

There is no doubt, however, that playing a starring role in Qatar will boost a player's chances of competing for the Golden Ball, so, as GOAL again tracks the race with our Ballon d'Or Power Rankings, we have kept the potential for a tournament-defining performance in mind.

Who, then, has put themselves in the frame with their performances in the first half of the season, and who has some catching up to do?

Join us as our 12-month Ballon d'Or Power Rankings journey continues...

(Previous update: December 12, 2022. Players removed: Karim Benzema, Rafael Leao & Phil Foden.)

  • Emiliano Martinez Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #20 Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2022-23: Eight clean sheets. Won World Cup.

    Playing for a mid-table Premier League team means Martinez is unlikely to be the first name that comes to mind when Ballon d'Or nominations are being discussed, but we know from previous years that France Football like to include a couple of goalkeepers in their shortlist.

    And so after winning the World Cup Golden Glove and pulling off some remarkable saves, both in open play and in penalty shootouts, to help Argentina lift the biggest trophy of them all, the Aston Villa shot-stopper has a decent chance of recognition in 2023.

  • Achraf Hakimi Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #19 Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 16th

    In 2022-23: Three goals, four assists, 15 clean sheets. Won Trophee des Champions.

    Likely to be the face of Morocco's historic team from the 2022 World Cup, Hakimi was outstanding in Qatar, defending stoutly while providing attacking thrust from right-back when allowed.

    Given he is a star player in a team that will almost-certainly win one of Europe's 'Big Five' leagues and could yet go deep in the Champions League, a Ballon d'Or nomination is almost secure already.

  • Harry Kane Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #18 Harry Kane (Tottenham)

    Last time: 17th

    In 2022-23: 16 goals, six assists.

    Kane might be one goal away from becoming England's all-time leading goalscorer, but for some fans, all he will be remembered for is the penalty he didn't score against France that led to the Three Lions' quarter-final defeat.

    The Tottenham star is still on track to have a superb individual season, but that moment will haunt him for a decent amount of time going forward.

  • Luka Modric Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #17 Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 14th

    In 2022-23: Six goals, three assists. Won UEFA Super Cup.

    Croatia might not have blown anyone away with their efficient-yet-effective football at the World Cup, but it did the trick once again as they sealed a third-placed finish, with their captain again leading the way on the global stage.

    Modric won the Ballon d'Or the last time the World Cup was played, and though he's unlikely to do so again, he should be among the nominees once more.

  • Antoine Griezmann Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #16 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)

    Last time: 10th

    In 2022-23: Six goals, nine assists.

    Until he struggled in the final, Griezmann was one of the World Cup's best and most consistent performers, with many backing him to challenge for the Golden Ball before France's loss to Argentina.

    Though he has no European football to catch the eye in during the second half of the season, if he can carry this performance level back to Atletico Madrid, a place among the Ballon d'Or nominees should be his.

  • #15 Cody Gakpo (PSV)

    Last time: 15th

    In 2022-23: 17 goals, 18 assists. Won Johan Cruyff Shield.

    After his scintillating start to the tournament, Gakpo went off the boil in the knockout stages as the Netherlands eventually bowed out in the quarter-finals.

    His season tally for goals and assists remains highly impressive, and how much he adds to them will likely depend on where he is playing his football come the end of the January transfer window.

  • Enzo Fernandez Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #14 Enzo Fernandez (Benfica)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2022-23: Four goals, six assists. Won World Cup.

    Little-known to casual fans outside of Argentina and Portugal before the World Cup, Fernandez was one of the breakout stars of the World Cup, claiming the Young Player of the Tournament in the process.

    The 21-year-old was superb for Argentina as they claimed the title in Qatar, carrying over the form that he has shown during his first few months at Benfica.

    Fernandez is unlikely to fade into obscurity, either, with Benfica having a favourable draw in the Champions League as they look to at least replicate their run to the quarter-finals from last season.

  • Jude Bellingham Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #13 Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)

    Last time: 13th

    In 2022-23: 10 goals, five assists.

    He was having a great season already, but the World Cup truly felt like Bellingham announcing himself to the world as one of, if not the great midfielder of the next decade or so.

    The Dortmund star was arguably England's best player in Qatar, and has the potential to take the Three Lions to new heights in the years to come.

  • #12 Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich)

    Last time: 12th

    In 2022-23: 12 goals, 12 assists. Won DFL-Supercup.

    Despite Germany's group-stage exit from the World Cup, Musiala showed in his three outings just why there is so much excitement surrounding what he can do now and in the future.

    He was his country's best player in Qatar at the age of 19, and Bayern will now be hoping he can carry that form into the second half of the season.

  • Bukayo Saka Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #11 Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

    Last time: 11th

    In 2022-23: Eight goals, eight assists.

    Saka's impressive showing against France rounded off an eye-catching World Cup for the England winger, even if it wasn't enough to inspire them to reach the semi-finals.

    He instead heads back to Arsenal in fantastic form and, if he can maintain it, then the Gunners could yet have a shot at winning the Premier League this season.

  • Khvicha Kvaratskhelia Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #10 Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli)

    Last time: 9th

    In 2022-23: 10 goals, 11 assists.

    The breakout star of the European season so far, 'Kvaradona' helped fire Napoli to a commanding lead at the top of Serie A, as well as a Champions League group win that sets them up nicely for a deep run through the knockout rounds.

    No stat sums up the winger's impact better than the fact that he currently leads Serie A for the most combined goals and assists, despite missing Napoli's final three matches before the break through injury.

    Georgia's failure to qualify for the World Cup was obviously a serious blow to his Ballon d'Or hopes, but at least he now has had a few more weeks off to get himself back in peak physical condition for the second half of the season.

  • Mohamed Salah Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #9 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

    Last time: 8th

    In 2022-23: 16 goals, five assists. Won Community Shield.

    Salah looked back to his best during the final few weeks before the World Cup, with the Egyptian's goals just about keeping Liverpool's head above water after a patchy run of form.

    His match-winning strikes against Manchester City and Tottenham were vintage Salah, and though he wasn't at the World Cup, he could still have his say in the Ballon d'Or race.

    Surely Liverpool can't be as bad in 2023? And if they do start firing again, then expect Salah to be leading the way.

  • Julian Alvarez Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #8 Julian Alvarez (Manchester City)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2022-23: 13 goals, three assists. Won World Cup.

    The decision to bring Alvarez into the line up after a couple of matches proved key to Argentina winning the World Cup, as the striker led the line superbly, providing both goals and clever link-up play alongside Lionel Messi.

    Given he is a Manchester City player, Alvarez now has a real chance to be one of the most decorated players in world football this season, and though France Football have instructed judges to prioritise performance over trophies, there's no doubt that the ex-River Plate man deserves to be at least a Ballon d'Or nominee.

  • Kevin De Bruyne Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #7 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

    Last time: 7th

    In 2022-23: Four goals, 14 assists.

    Perhaps one of the most underwhelming performers at the World Cup, De Bruyne was powerless to stop Belgium's ageing side from crashing out in the group stages.

    He will be glad, then, to get back to Manchester City and start swinging in crosses for Erling Haaland to attack once more.

  • Vinicius Junior Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #6 Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 6th

    In 2022-23: 11 goals, nine assists. Won UEFA Super Cup.

    Vinicius showed flashes of his outstanding ability at his first World Cup, but he was one of a number who couldn't produce consistently enough for Brazil to make it further than the quarter-finals.

    With that first global tournament out of the way, he can now focus on elevating himself to become the main man at Real Madrid over the second half of the season.

  • Robert Lewandowski Ballon d'Or Rankings GFX

    #5 Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)

    Last time: 5th

    In 2022-23: 20 goals, six assists.

    At what was perhaps his final World Cup, Lewandowski cut a frustrated figure for much of Poland's campaign, even if he did manage to score his first goals at the tournament.

    His return to Barcelona action will be delayed by a suspension after he was sent off in their final game before the break, but that should mean he is fresh for the second half of the campaign.

  • Neymar Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #4 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 4th

    In 2022-23: 18 goals, 15 assists. Won Trophee des Champions.

    Neymar's World Cup dream is over, with the Brazilian superstar hinting that he will not carry on with the national team through to 2026 after their quarter-final defeat to Croatia.

    His struggles with form and fitness at the World Cup should not, however, detract from his superb first half of the season at PSG, and if he maintains that level of form, he could still force himself into the Ballon d'Or race.

  • Erling Haaland Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #3 Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

    Last time: 3rd

    In 2022-23: 24 goals, three assists.

    With any doubts over whether he would cut it at Manchester City extinguished in the space of a few weeks, Haaland has now had the chance to put his feet up and rest for a month before trying to continue his record-breaking goalscoring pace at the end of December.

    Such is Haaland's talent, he can definitely win the Ballon d'Or without having taken part at the World Cup, and the tournament has so far played out almost perfectly for him.

  • Kylian Mbappe Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #2 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 1st

    In 2022-23: 28 goals, seven assists.

    When Mbappe turns 24 on Tuesday, he won't do as a two-time World Cup winner, but he will do confident that he will break almost every record going at the tournament going forward.

    Mbappe wrapped up the Golden Boot with just the second hat-trick in a World Cup final against Argentina, crowning yet another memorable month on the global stage for the PSG superstar.

  • Lionel Messi Ballon d;Or Rankings GFX

    #1 Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 2nd

    In 2022-23: 24 goals, 18 assists. Won World Cup & Trophee des Champions.

    An absolute force of nature, Messi finally ended the long wait for a first World Cup, leading from the front with goals and assists that left fans around the globe in awe.

    A deserving winner of the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, is there anything anyone else can do to stop Messi from claiming Ballon d'Or number eight? Though the season still has six months to go, it might prove difficult.