Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar who recently joined Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain, has been named among the 30 nominees for the 2023 men’s Ballon d’Or. If he wins the award, he will become the first active MLS player to do so and extend his record to eight Ballon d’Or trophies.
Messi’s remarkable year
Messi had a remarkable year in 2023, leading Argentina to their first World Cup title since 1986 in Qatar. He scored seven goals in the tournament, including a stunning free-kick in the final against Brazil, and was named the best player of the World Cup. He also won the Copa America with Argentina earlier in the year, ending his long wait for a major international trophy.
At club level, Messi helped PSG win the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France before leaving the French giants as a free agent in August. He then signed a two-year deal with Inter Miami, becoming the highest-paid player in MLS history and boosting the profile of the league. He has scored four goals in his first six games for Miami, attracting huge crowds and media attention.
Haaland and Mbappe among rivals
Messi faces stiff competition for the Ballon d’Or from some of the best players in the world, including Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Kevin De Bruyne. Haaland is widely considered as Messi’s main rival for the prize after scoring 52 goals in 53 games for Manchester City last season. He helped City win the treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, and also won the UEFA player of the year award.
Mbappe, who stayed at PSG despite being linked with a move to Real Madrid, is another strong contender for the Ballon d’Or. He scored 42 goals in all competitions for PSG last season and was also instrumental in France’s run to the World Cup semifinals. De Bruyne, who was Haaland’s teammate at City, is also among the nominees after being named the PFA player of the year and the Premier League player of the season.
Bonmati leads women’s shortlist
For the women’s Ballon d’Or, Aitana Bonmati is the favourite to win the award after being the outstanding player as Spain lifted their first World Cup in Sydney last month. She also starred as Barcelona won the Champions League and was named the UEFA women’s player of the year. She is one of six Barcelona players on the 30-woman shortlist, along with four other members of Spain’s World Cup-winning team.
Other notable nominees include Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr, World Cup top scorer and new Manchester United recruit Hinata Miyazawa, England goalkeeper Mary Earps and Colombia starlet Linda Caicedo. The winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or will be announced at the same ceremony as the men’s on October 30 in Paris.