The most prestigious individual award in all of football will soon be dished out as we await the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony. Two favourites stand head and shoulders above the rest – but how do Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland compare?
A stunning array of talent stands among the nominees for this year’s award. Following an incredible, treble-winning campaign, Manchester City boast seven players on the shortlist. They are far ahead of the next-best clubs, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid far behind with three nominees apiece.
Meanwhile, the two 2022 World Cup Finalists are the countries with the most shortlisted stars. Both Argentina and France have four players up for the award, clearly thanks to their excellence in Qatar.
Yes, last year’s World Cup does factor into the 2023 Ballon d’Or process. After a change in 2022, this award moved away from judging based on the calendar year. Instead, the Ballon d’Or voting factors in the typical football season. The 2023 award is therefore considering the entire 2022/23 campaign – including the World Cup.
As a result, Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland are our two main frontrunners. Can we separate them by looking at their stats and silverware, though? There is no harm in comparing the two superstars, at least.
Erling Haaland: 2022/23 season stats
Honours: Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, European Golden Shoe, Premier League Player of the Season, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year
Honours: Nations League top scorer
An absolutely epic campaign saw Erling Haaland take the Premier League by storm. Throughout his first season in England, the Norwegian ripped up the record books for Man City.
With 36 league goals, Haaland set a record for the most goals in a single Premier League campaign. Additionally, he was the top scorer in that season’s Champions League, with 12 from 11 appearances.
All this enabled the forward to lead City to the ultimate English football treble. The FA Cup, League, and Champions League all went to the Etihad – with a big thanks going to Haaland.
Lionel Messi: 2022/23 season stats
Honours: Ligue 1, French Super Cup
Honours: FIFA World Cup, World Cup Golden Ball, Best FIFA Men’s Player 2022
Lionel Messi enjoyed a much-improved showing for PSG in 2022/23 compared to a tough first year in Paris. With 21 goals and 20 assists across all comps, he averaged a goal contribution per 90. Clearly, the Argentine maestro was firing on all cylinders.
But his claim for a record eighth Ballon d’Or undoubtedly comes from his World Cup exploits. Messi led Argentina to a third title, finally claiming that missing piece to his glittering career. In doing so, the forward also became the first player to score in every round of a WC tournament in its 32-team format.
He led by example – and led Argentina to the promised land.
Who will win?
This year’s voting may almost come down to a head or heart decision. When looking at the stats, and accolades accumulated, Erling Haaland stands out as having had an unbelievable season. Being the focal point in a treble is not something that goes unnoticed.
However, the emotional story of Messi finally winning the World Cup, after so many disappointments internationally, may tip the balance in his favour. It also helps that the Argentine racked up an impressive collection of stats, too.
Traditionally, the World Cup has benefitted some Ballon d’Or wins as well. For example, Ronaldo (2002), Fabio Cannavaro (2006), and Zinedine Zidane (1998) have all taken home the prize with their World Cup wins a large contributing factor.
It will be fascinating to see if voters go with their heads (Erling Haaland) or their hearts (Lionel Messi) this year.
Featured image credit: Getty