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The Future of the Ballon d’Or

Over the past 15 years football’s most illustrious award has been gobbled up year after year by the likes of Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Ballon d’Or is regarded in the football award as the mark of the world’s best soccer player of that given season. Football icons such as Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Zinedine Zidane, and the aforementioned duo of Ronaldo and Messi have called the trophy their own. However, now that Messi and Ronaldo have left European football, the trophy is ready to be claimed by some new faces. The following will be a look at the five players who are most likely to win the Ballon d’Or over the next decade.

5. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala is already progressing as one of the most stunning attacking midfielders in the entire world. In his most previous season for Bayern Munich Musiala put in twelve goals to go along with his ten assists. 

Musiala fits perfectly into the mold of what an attacking midfielder should be. The German blends in his fair share of goal scoring, assists, forward passing, and ball retention. He is able to both use creative passing to generate chances for his squad and keep the ball for his team as well.

Musiala also has the ability to win with both his national and club squads. While Musiala’s German national team currently sits at 16th in FIFA’s rankings, the club has historically been a top team. Only three world cups ago in 2014 Germany was able to win the world cup. Musiala looks to be the leading prospect to lead Germany over the next decade.

Musiala also is set to have promising success for his club Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich have won the past 11 Bundesliga titles and have won the champions league twice in that span. With a promising club and nation the prospect of collecting a Ballon d’Or is ultimately up to how Musiala progresses as a player. At only 20 years old the German Midfielder has all the potential to rise even higher as one of the world’s best players. 

4. Vinicius Junior

Vinicius burst onto the scene during the 2021-2022 season for Real Madrid, where he contributed 17 goals and 10 assists. Since then the Brazilian winger has dipped slightly in production for his club, however, the 23 year old has time on his side.

Vinicius is the model of what a winger should look like. His silky touches and dribbles down the wing show shades of other great Brazilian wingers such as Ronaldinho and Neymar. His pace down the edge of the field adds to his offensive presence, making him a constant threat to defenses. 

Vinicius’s nation of Brazil also bodes well for his prospects as one of the world’s best players. Historically, Brazil leads the world with the most world cups with five. His club, Real Madrid, also stands as the club with the most Champions League titles of all time. It would be difficult to pick teams that are any better in the history of the sport. Vinicius’s place at four on this list stands to say more about the people above him than anything against him personally. With his talent and skills he has the ability to provide a threat on the wing that is very rare. Whether or not Vinicius will reach this mark will remain to be seen. 

3. Jude Bellingham

Perhaps if this article was written a few months ago, Bellingham would not be nearly as high. However, the former Dortmund player has put La Liga on notice. 

Through just 11 games with Real Madrid, Bellingham has already contributed 10 goals and two assists. The 20 year-old has done this on one of the largest stages as a midfielder. Bellingham’s hot streak for Real Madrid will likely not keep up this insane rate, however, it sheds light on the incredible player Bellingham is. Bellingham is already one of the most complete players in the sport. He blurs the lines between being a midfielder and a forward, seemingly being able to be used at all parts of the pitch. 

Bellingham’s offensive output does not end at his goals but is also shown in his progressive passing as well. Over the past year, Bellingham is in the top 10 percent of players for progressive passes, touches, and progressive carries. While not necessarily known for his defensive ability, the Englishman is also able to hold his own as a defender and play from box to box. Especially when one considers his offensive output, his ability to be even a positive on defensive almost seems unfair. 

As stated previously, Bellingham plays for Real Madrid, one of the top clubs in the world. His club, along with his high status as a member of the English national team, leads him to have plenty of opportunities to rack up silverware. With so much success and at such a young age, the sky is truly the limit for Jude Bellingham. 

2. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland almost won his first Ballon d’Or this past season, coming up just short in second place to Lionel Messi. Despite not winning the award this year, it would be shocking if he did not eventually come out on top as a Ballon d’Or winner. 

Haaland is a pure goal scorer in every essence of the phrase. His raw goal output shows everything about the player he is. This past season for Manchester City, Haaland contributed 36 goals to his club in league competitions, setting a record in the English premier league. His scoring did not just end in the premier league though, Haaland scored 52 goals across his 53 games in the 2022-2023 season. Scoring at a rate of almost a goal a game puts him in a special place above anyone else in the world right now. This special season was able to help his club Manchester city win the English premier league, FA cup, and champions league, a truly historic season. 

Haaland’s rare combination of size, speed, positioning, and finishing makes him the ultimate weapon as a striker. Standing at 6 '4 and 194 pounds, the Norwegian is able to simply out muscle defenders on his way into the box.  While many might poke holes in his game outside of his goal scoring, Haaland is capable in other areas of the game. In the premier league last season Haaland was able to have eight assists, 9th among all players in the league. Some will also point out that his goals may be very close to the net and considered easier than others. However what many miss is the art of positioning that Haaland has mastered. There is a reason that Haaland is the only one able to score at this volume and it does not have to do with luck. 

The real fault that lies in Haaland’s game is his national prospects. The Norwegian national team leaves lots to be desired in terms of success, with the team not even qualifying for the world cup in 2022. Haaland will likely have to rely on his club success to bring him awards. If this most recent season is anything to go off of though, that success is plentiful. 

1. Kylian Mbappe

The 24-year-old from France is the future of football and that future is now. Mbappe seemingly has all the components to win, he has not one, but several Ballon d’Ors over the next ten years. 

Mbappe’s pacey play as a forward bodes well not just to his high scoring output, but to a large amount of assists as well. The attacker has a mesmerizing playstyle combining his absurd speed, precise dribbling, and clinical finishing. In the recent 2022-2023 season, Mbappe had 29 goals and 5 assists for his club PSG. 

On the national front, Mbappe was able to take France all the way to the World Cup final in 2022, scoring a hatrick in the final. His performance in the final was only snuffed out due to Lionel Messi and Argentina’s impressive victory. His nationality as a French player helps him greatly as he set up for great international success when compared to other candidates on this list such as Erling Haaland. 

The only component of Mbappe that holds him back at the moment is his club's success. Playing in France’s league 1 causes some concerns for the level of opposition he performs against in league matches. In fact, only 2 players have ever won the Ballon d’Or while playing in the French top division. His club PSG has not performed particularly well in European competitions either. Since Mbappe joined PSG in the 2017-2018 season, the club has been victim to the round of 16 four times, a semi finalist once, and the runner up once as well. The runner-up status the club reached in the 2019-2020 season was the farthest the club had reached in its history. Despite this, the club's struggles do not take away from Mbappe’s individual skills. With rumors on the horizon that Mbappe could be parting ways with PSG shortly, it seems even more likely that the player is destined for a Ballon d’Or soon. 

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