Ballon d'Or 2023 power ranking: Lionel Messi odds-on favourite, ahead of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe

Ballon d'Or 2023 favourites: Erling Haaland, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe
(Image credit: Future)

The Ballon d'Or 2023 isn't until October – but already, the favourites are beginning to establish themselves. 

We're well and truly out of the duopoly era, now. From 2008 to 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi dominated the Ballon d'Or with only Luka Modric breaking their stronghold in 2018. Last autumn saw Karim Benzema lift France's for the first time since Zinedine Zidane – and once more, the podium spots could be anyones.

Let's whiz through the runners and riders all competing for the biggest individual award in the sport this year. 

Who are the favourites for the Ballon d'Or?

All odds from Betfair

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1. Lionel Messi (1/4)

Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Winner's Trophy as Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, look on during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the World Cup trophy (Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The red-hot favourite for the Ballon d'Or has seven of the award already in his cabinet at home. He could well extend the record of most wins to eight, too, having inspired Argentina to a World Cup title in the 2022/23 season already.

OK, so Paris Saint-Germain have done nothing in Europe once more: Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball at the World Cup though, becoming the first player to ever win it twice. Giving him the Ballon d'Or seems like a formality – he's likely to bag another domestic league title – unless someone else can deliver something otherworldly between now and the end of the season.

With rumours linking the little genius away from Europe this summer, too, this might be the last time he wins the trophy. If Messi leaves for the US or Middle East, expect him to lift the BDO for an eighth time in recognition as much for his career as what he's done this season… a little like how John Wayne won an Oscar for True Grit

2. Erling Haaland (5/1)

Erling Haaland Manchester City goals

Erling Haaland celebrates after scoring for Manchester City (Image credit: Getty Images)

Erling Haaland is scoring goals at a rate that no one ever has done in the Premier League. That alone may see him lift the Ballon d'Or next year, the year after or the year after that – but let's not forget that this is a team game.

And Manchester City are, after all, still on for a treble. If the Citizens lift all three trophies, BDO voters' eyes will swing over to the super Scandi scorer who's demolished all before him at home and on the continent. Recency bias may give Haaland the nudge over Messi, too.

It's not quite a one-horse race yet – either in the Premier League title stakes or the Ballon d'Or voting – and the City slicker is trying his damnedest to give himself the best chance at both. 

3. Kylian Mbappe (11/1)

Nike signature Kylian Mbappe boots

Kylian Mbappe in action for France against Poland at the World Cup (Image credit: Getty)

Kylian Mbappe is yet to feature in the top three at the Ballon d'Or. Though he finished the World Cup as Lionel Messi's bridesmaid, he may yet get onto the awards' podium.

After all, many of the reasons that you'd vote for Messi are positives in King Kylian's corner, too. Inspired his team with goals a-plenty at the World Cup, dragging them through some rounds and breaking records as he went, before a stunning show in the final that no one will forget in the final – though both are let down by PSG's impotence in the Champions League.

It may be a little too soon for Mbappe but there's still a chance that he could sweep this prize this season. He's arguably the best player on Earth right now. 

4. Karim Benzema (18/1)

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF celebrates goal prior the referee cancel the goal during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 16, 2022 in Madrid, Spain.

Karim Benzema celebrates against Barcelona (Image credit: Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Last year's champ is still going strong. Karim Benzema put in performances of sheer magic in the Champions League last season to convince all that he was the most devastating footballer of 2022. 

Big Benz is still in the Champions League. The only problem with his BDO retention campaign is that he can't quite repeat last season's feats, even in March. Last season, he won a Nations League with France and a La Liga title with Real Madrid: he wasn't involved in the big international tournament of the last year, unfortunately, while Barcelona look like wrapping up the Spanish title in mere weeks. 

He'd be an outside shot this time – but it says all you need to know about the man that he's still fourth favourite for the prize despite all the odds. 

5. Marcus Rashford (28/1)

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Carabao Cup quarter-final match between Manchester United and Charlton Athletic on 10 January, 2023 at Old Trafford in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates after scoring in the League Cup (Image credit: Simon Stacpoole/Offside via Getty Images)

The last time an English player won the Ballon d'Or was in 2001, when a fresh-faced Michael Owen was the shock recipient following a barnstorming season with Liverpool

Marcus Rashford is on course to repeat that campaign with Manchester United. With the League Cup title already sewn up, the England international is driving his side forward in the FA Cup and Europa League, as the Red Devils chase a treble that only their Red rivals have ever managed in English football. 

Owen was lucky that he did all three trophies in a season between the European Championship and the World Cup. Would Rashford winning all three be enough to swing the voters to plump for him over Messi?

6. Vinicius Jr (33/1)

Vinicius Junior of Brazil walks in the field during the international friendly match between Brazil and Tunisia at Parc des Princes on September 27, 2022 in Paris, France.

Vinicius Junior in action in a friendly against Tunisia (Image credit: Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

The scorer of last season's Champions League-winning goal, Vinicius Jr is slowly but surely becoming the man for the big occasion whenever the biggest club in the world need him to be.

Rather like Benzema, the Brazilian is having a stellar season in the Champions League and no one would be surprised if Los Blancos went all the way once more. But how much does Vini have to do in that competition to surpass the achievement of Messi at the World Cup?

At 22, you can put Vinicius in a bracket with Haaland, Mbappe and even Rashford: all are having incredible seasons… but it's a little premature to label any as favourites for this prize. 

7. Kevin De Bruyne (33/1)

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton FC at Etihad Stadium on October 08, 2022 in Manchester, England.

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City looks on in action against Southampton (Image credit: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Kevin De Bruyne was on the Ballon d'Or podium last autumn – though he probably kissed his chance to do so again this year goodbye, with Belgium's weak World Cup performance. 

Still, we can put KDB in the same boat as Erling Haaland as a potential superstar to motor Manchester City towards a treble. The strawberry blond playmaker has only been playing sporadically for Pep Guardiola of late – but were the Citizens to win the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup together, it's likely that De Bruyne will have a hand in each.

Remember the title clash at the Emirates Stadium when De Bruyne put in a whirlwind performance and scored the opener? That could well be where his bid for the BDO really began, should he lift it later in 2023…

8. Enzo Fernandez (40/1)

Enzo Fernandez signing for Chelsea

Enzo Fernandez signs for Chelsea (Image credit: Getty Images)

Enzo Fernandez will be popular with the Ballon d'Or voters regardless of how the rest of his season pans out with Chelsea. The Young Player of the World Cup, who scored a belter in the group stage against Mexico, he's going to finish favourably in the voting, surely. 

Especially when you consider he's on course to finish outside of a European place with his new club and that Chelsea may well exit at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League to Real Madrid. Could they go further? Could they win it? Could Enzo put in the kind of season-defining performances that see him with the Golden Ball under his arm?

Perhaps – but it would be a shock, were he to beat out his countryman, Messi, to the big prize. Still, stranger things have happened – especially in this award's history…

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.