Sports

Way too early predictions for the 2023 Ballon d’Or

After a ceremony at the grand Theatre du Chatelet in Paris that lasted far longer than it should have, the Ballon d’Or has been wrapped up for another year.

Karim Benzema deservedly took home the men’s award, while Alexia Putellas edged Beth Mead by a single point to take home the women’s prize. Even the Yashin Trophy couldn’t cheer up poor Thibaut Courtois, miffed that it is ‘impossible’ for a goalkeeper to win, while Barcelona regen Gavi was proclaimed the best under-21 player of the past season with the Kopa Trophy.

If you’re not already thinking about next year’s ceremony, and let’s be honest, why would you be, here’s some food for thought in the form of far too early predictions for Ballon d’Or 2023.

Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne finished third in this year’s voting / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

To be clear, the only reason this can’t go to Erling Haaland is that Norway aren’t at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. That’s really the only case you can make against him. Which is why France Football should do the honourable thing and hand it over to Haaland’s Manchester City teammate and the third-place finisher this year (ohhhhhhhh) Kevin De Bruyne.

Don’t think this means I’m predicting Belgium to have a good tournament, because I’m not. In fact, I think they’ll struggle just enough for De Bruyne to bail them out of a couple of tight games against Croatia and Morocco with individual moments of brilliance. A 30-yard pile driver off his weaker foot here, an on-a-plate 82nd-minute cross from the right wing there. So good even Michy Batschuayi can’t miss it.

De Bruyne has been comfortably the best player in the Premier League for quite some time now and has only really been held back from a Ballon d’Or due to Manchester City’s failure to win the Champions League. Never ever forget the disgrace, the mockery, that was Jorginho coming in third in 2021.

Simply put, he’s the best player on the best team in the world. He’s going to win it next year before Haaland inevitably does (unless Argentina or Brazil win the World Cup, in which case, ignore everything you’ve just read and succumb to the narrative).

This one really is a toss-up between the two hottest talents in the Bundesliga at the moment: former international teammates Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham. The pair played alongside each other for England’s U15s, U16s andU17s before Musiala made the sensible decision to declare for Germany at senior level, something you really shouldn’t hold against the player due to the fact he was born in Stuttgart.

On a completely unrelated note, here’s Bellingham absolutely clattering him 13 minutes into Der Klassiker.

Jude has scored four goals in four games in the Champions League already this season and is regularly captaining Dortmund. Jamal has five goals and five assists in nine Bundesliga games for Bayern. They’re both 19. How on earth do you choose between them?

It’ll likely come down to who has the better World Cup and deepest Champions League run of the two, but with their history together and the fact that France Football presented Jorginho with bronze (still not over it) for scoring a few penalties – literally wasn’t even the best midfielder, let alone player, in his own team, both club and international – then don’t be surprised if they unveil some cheesy joint award to acknowledge both of these incredible talents.

Put a gun to my head, however, and I’ll go Bellingham as he has to do a bit more for his team.

FBL-AWARD-BALLON D'OR-2022

Can Thibaut Courtois go back-to-back? / FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

Although Kepa Arrizabalaga’s performance against Aston Villa on Sunday was worthy of the Yashin Trophy on its own, this one is wide open. Reigning champion Courtois will be a surefire contender, as will Manuel Neuer, who has never finished in the top three since its inception in 2019.

He has Covid-19 and the cancelled 2020 ceremony to thank for that, when he would surely have won after his performances for Bayern Munich during their run to the 2019/20 Champions League title behind closed doors.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, 2021’s winner, will be in the mix but is unlikely to finish first due to Italy failing to qualify for Qatar. He’d probably need PSG to win the Champions League.

Then there’s the Premier League’s (and Brazil’s) two best goalkeepers: Alisson and Ederson. Alisson is the de facto starter for his country but Ederson has been the better player so far this season. Alisson has the World Cup with Brazil to impress but Ederson will probably go further in the Champions League. In a sense, they both cancel each other out.

Unless, of course, Brazil do end up winning the whole thing as I’ve mentioned. In which case you can lock in both Neymar and Alisson for their respective awards. As there’s no standout candidate in a tight field, this seems like it is still Courtois’ to lose. Going to have to be boring on this one, folks. Apologies.

Sam Kerr

Sam Kerr scored 20 in as many appearances in the league last season / Alex Burstow/GettyImages

Sam Kerr scored 29 goals in 31 appearances as Chelsea won the Women’s Super League and FA Cup last season, good enough for a second-consecutive third-place finish in the Ballon d’Or Feminin.

Given that two-time reigning champion Alexia Putellas is out for the season with an ACL injury and Kerr has the prospect of a World Cup in her native Australia (along with New Zealand) next July to look forward to, I’m backing her to go two places further next time around.

Her record at international level for the Matildas is terrifying: 59 goals in 110 appearances. With a home crowd behind her, you can bet she’ll be among the top goalscorers in the competition again as she was at France 2019.

Beyond that, Chelsea are set to compete on four fronts yet again, making Kerr a sensible choice. She’s only got one goal in four so far this campaign but expect that to pick up quite considerably as the season progresses.

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