2024 Ballon d’Or power rankings: Kane, Bellingham, Mbappe… or Messi once again?

We’re now getting to the point in the footballing calendar that the Ballon d’Or will likely be decided. The make-or-break business end clashes that previous winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo used to come alive for.

The Champions League and this summer’s European Championships and Euro 2024 will likely have a massive part to play in which of football’s elite superstars claims the most prestigious individual accolade in football.

With all that being said, and judging everything that’s happened this season so far, we’ve put together a top 10 power rankings of which names we expect to see fighting for the Ballon d’Or come the glitzy Paris ceremony in late October.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo

Hear us out. Ronaldo’s fifth Ballon d’Or in 2017 was almost certainly his last. Almost certainly.

The 39-year-old has scored over 40 goals in 2023-24 and remains up there with the top goalscorers in world football. Of course, that’s out in Saudi Arabia, where he’s set to be pipped to the league title for a second successive year.

He could score a hundred goals in the Saudi Pro League and probably not be in the running.

But Ronaldo continues to lead the line for Portugal. The all-time top goalscorer in the history of international football has a chance of captaining his country to a second European Championships.

The Real Madrid icon scored 10 goals in Euro 2024 qualifying, second behind Romelu Lukaku, and he remains the figurehead of a Portugal squad packed full of younger talent.

If they win Euro 2024, expect to see a campaign ramp up for Ronaldo to get his mitts on a sixth golden ball.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every club Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 5+ goals against?

9. Erling Haaland

The Ballon d’Or hasn’t gone to a Premier League player since Ronaldo in 2008. That run, in all likelihood, looks likely to continue.

The biggest star name in English football  – who can feel unfortunate to miss out after a European Golden Shoe and star role in a treble last year – was recently likened to a League Two player by Roy Keane and has had some struggles of late with high-profile misses.

A lack of impact as Manchester City exited the Champions League to Real Madrid won’t do his case much good, nor will Norway’s absence from Euro 2024 this summer.

Still, Haaland could yet end 2023-24 with a domestic double and a second successive Premier League Golden Boot.

But his goalscoring numbers would have to go outrageously stratospheric in the latter half of the year for him to make ground with the star names competing for the Champions League and international honours.

8. Rodri

Manchester City might’ve wrapped up the Premier League title by now had Rodri not earned himself a costly three-match earlier in the campaign.

There is little question that Rodri is the best player in his position in world football. It’s now 70 games and over 400 days since he last suffered defeat with City, if you don’t count the penalties against Real Madrid.

He’s also by some distance Spain’s standout individual. So much of their hope for Euro 2024 rests on his shoulders.

7. Bukayo Saka

One of the major players in Europe’s most compelling title race and the world’s most-watched league.

Arsenal are hoping to claim their first league title in 20 years but with Saka – enjoying the best campaign of his career to date – firing on all cylinders, expect them to capitalise if City do slip up.

The 22-year-old has as good a chance as anyone else of claiming the Premier League’s Player of the Year and is among the major reasons that England are considered second favourites for Euro 2024.

READ NEXT: 13 players we can’t quite believe were nominated for the Ballon d’Or

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to make the Ballon d’Or podium in Messi’s eight wins?

6. Florian Wirtz

The last player to win the Ballon d’Or without playing in the Champions League was Michael Owen back in 2001. The last Englishman to win the award enjoyed an extraordinary 2000-01 campaign, shining for Liverpool as they claimed the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

Still, Owen was also somewhat fortunate that there were no international tournaments that year and Champions League winners Bayern Munich lacked any one outstanding individual.

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen are currently registering the best season from a club outside the Champions League since that Liverpool team. It’s now May and they remain unbeaten in all competitions. Forty-six games and counting.

It’s truly been a team effort – from Granit Xhaka to Jeremie Frimpong to Victor Boniface – but homegrown wonderkid Wirtz is probably the closest thing they have to a bonafide star.

The 20-year-old is one of only two players in Europe’s five major leagues to’ve hit double figures for goals and assists and really ought to be in the running if Leverkusen can go on and make more history, following their first-ever Bundesliga title with a DFB Pokal, Europa League and an unprecedented invincible-on-all-fronts full campaign.

5. Lionel Messi

We’re accustomed to seeing megastars like David Beckham, Gareth Bale, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic play out their twilight years in Major League Soccer. But not since the days of Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele in the NASL could the United States boast such royalty.

Never before has MLS been blessed with a superstar that’s genuinely still among the best in the world. Messi is tearing it up with Inter Miami, notching goals and assists for fun, and having the time of his life out in the Florida sunshine.

As with his eternal rival Ronaldo at Al Nassr, whatever Messi achieves in Miami is unlikely to move the needle. But he claimed his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or after moving to America, becoming the first player not signed to a European club to lift the prestigious award.

That was for his heroic role in Argentina’s 2022 World Cup triumph rather than anything he did at club level.

But there is another Copa America coming up, and with Messi in this kind of form we wouldn’t bet against La Albiceleste retaining it. If they do, there’ll be a case for Numero Nueve.

READ: We’re delighted to announce that Lionel Messi has fried our brains yet again

4. Vinicius Junior

The Brazilian just seems to possess that unerring ability to peak at the key moments of the season.

Vinicius wasn’t especially prolific, or anywhere near his best, in the first half of the 2023-24 campaign. But that all gets forgotten when it comes to the Ballon d’Or, which is ultimately all about the business end.

Two assists in the first leg against Manchester City. Two goals and a Man of the Match award away at Bayern Munich. He’s stepped up superbly into that clutch talisman role previously occupied by Ronaldo and Benzema.

3. Harry Kane

Standing in Vinicius’ way of making the Wembley final is Kane, who himself stepped up and coolly dispatched pressure penalties against Madrid and Arsenal in these latter Champions League stages.

Kane continues to await a first-ever trophy, but what a way it would be to break his duck.

This has been his best-ever goalscoring season, and he could be set to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Messi, Cristiano, Benzema and Ronaldo Nazario by following up an (all but sealed) European Golden Shoe with the Ballon d’Or.

Failing to land the Bundesliga would swiftly be forgotten if Kane gets his hands on the biggest prize of them all. And then there’s the small matter of captaining an outrageously stacked England squad at the Euros in Germany. Legacy-defining matches await.

READ: The 2023-24 European Golden Shoe contenders: Harry Kane leads the way…

2. Jude Bellingham

You arguably have to go all the way back to Alfredo di Stefano to find a player that made this kind of instant impact in their debut season at Real Madrid. Which for the club famous for Galactico signings is quite ridiculous.

Bellingham is Los Blancos’ top scorer in La Liga and the title is imminent. He’s stolen the headlines with injury-time match-winners home and away against Barcelona. That’s something neither Messi nor Ronaldo ever did.

It’s arguably Vini Jr who approaches these key months in the better form, with more of a stamp on the Champions League knockout matches, but we’d still just about give Bellingham the edge in terms of status at this moment in time.

Four of the last five Ballon d’Or winners not named Messi have been Madrid players, and you can’t see beyond a member of their squad if they win the Champions League.

England and Brazil’s fortunes at Euro 2024 and the Copa America respectively might come into play as a trump card when it comes to their two leading lights.

1. Kylian Mbappe

By the time the Ballon d’Or voting rolls around at the end of the year, Mbappe will almost certainly be a Madrid player and having Florentino Perez and vast swathes of the Spanish media behind him won’t hurt his cause.

Yet another Ligue 1 title has already been secured, there’s a Coupe de France final against Lyon to come and more likely than not a Champions League final too. A historic treble is on.

And in his swansong season with his hometown club, Mbappe is their undisputed poster boy following last summer’s departures of Messi and Neymar.

There’s a very good chance that the 25-year-old becomes a European champion with his club and his country in the coming months.

PSG are huge favourites to make it past Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League semi, while Les Bleus – whom Mbappe now captains – are just ahead of England in the bookmakers’ odds for Euro 2024.

A potentially career-defining couple of months await. Only Kane has scored more goals across Europe’s major leagues, and he’s already scored big goals in the Champions League knockouts against both Real Sociedad and Barcelona.

Mbappe has the world at his feet and a golden opportunity to nail down his status as the best in the world in the post-Messi and Ronaldo era.

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