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Who will be the next English winner of the Ballon d'Or? These are the likely candidates

Phil Foden
(Image credit: Getty)

The last English winner of the Ballon d'Or was an outlier - and we'll probably never see a winner like it again.

Michael Owen's victory in 2001 was a strange one, in that he hadn't played Champions League football in the 2000/01 season. He'd won the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup - but scored just 16 Premier League goals. That's fewer than Marcus Stewart of Ipswich Town that season.

Owen was just 22, too. The equivalent would perhaps be someone like Marcus Rashford or Phil Foden collecting the award next year: fine players - but not among the favourites for the title.

LONGREAD "That season put Liverpool back on the European map" – remembering 2001 with Michael Owen, England's last Ballon d'Or winner

With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo nearing the ends of their careers, the field could well open in coming seasons - are any Englishmen likely to get it?

1. Harry Kane

Harry Kane

(Image credit: PA)

In 2020/21, Harry Kane scored 33 goals in all competitions and made 14 assists. Had England have won the Euros and Kane's form continued into 2021/22, he could have landed himself the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

The likelihood is that 2022 will see Kane break the all-time scoring record for his country. On top of that, Tottenham lifting a couple of trophies and the England captain finding his shooting boots in the Premier League might put him in good stead for a Ballon d'Or - it's just a shame that next year's ceremony will probably be midway through a World Cup, so anything he's doing with England won't have much bearing.

Beyond the next 12 months, you'd have to imagine either Kane will leave Spurs or Antonio Conte will deliver a trophy or two. At 28, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Kane will have a year like Robert Lewandowski had last year - it's just whether or not there are better individual calendar years as to how the striker does in future BDOs. 

FFT's prediction: Aged 30, Harry Kane sneaks onto the podium in third, after returning to his best in 2023 - he won a second World Cup Golden Boot late in 2022, won the Nations League with England, scored 30 goals and made 20 assists across 2023 and Tottenham won an FA Cup under Conte. That's as close as Harry gets to a Ballon d'Or, though...

2. Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling

(Image credit: PA)

Raheem Sterling has been in and out of the Manchester City team this year and yet he's still the highest-placed English player in the 2021 Ballon d'Or at 15th. At just 26, his best years might still be ahead of him, too.

Sterling is perfectly placed at a club that keeps winning things and even if he leaves, one would imagine he'd go to another club who does the same. As a forward who keeps having impressive scoring seasons, he only needs to perform in the second half of one season and the first half of the next to be in with a shout - so that's not unlikely.

The City attacker turns 30 in December 2024 and that's supposedly when players hit their peak. So if he manages to score 40 goals across the calendar year in all competitions and win the Euros with England - as one of Gareth Southgate's favourites - he could be a good early bet for the 2024 edition of the award.

FFT's prediction: At the age of 29, Barcelona star Raheem Sterling scores the winner as England win Euro 2024. He's just won LaLiga too and finishes second in the Ballon d'Or, behind Erling Haaland became the first Premier League player to score 40 goals in a season. That's as good as Sterling will ever manage in the award.

3. Mason Mount

Mason Mount

(Image credit: PA)

You can see Mason Mount staying at Chelsea for a long time, whoever the manager is. As more of a midfielder, a couple of star turns in big games should put him in contention for end-of-year awards.

Mount is just 22, as well. It's more than likely that Chelsea will win another Champions League with him in the side - perhaps with him as captain. He already has an assist in a Champions League final after a season of good performances.

Even if Chelsea win the title and Mount performs for England at a major tournament in the same calendar year, he might be in with a shout. 

FFT's prediction: Mason Mount finishes in the top five of the Ballon d'Or vote between 2027 and 2029, after Chelsea complete a hat-trick of Premier League titles, winning the Champions League in 2029. His highest placing is fourth in 2028, as he gallantly helps England to a silver medal at the Euros, as they lose to the Netherlands in extra-time. 

4. Jack Grealish

Champions League odds, Manchester City, jack Grealish

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone is already in love with Jack Grealish. At 26 years old, he's primed to be at City for Pep Guardiola's final few years and the start of the next manager's tenure - he's sure to be a key player, if not the key man.

Grealish's mercurial streak means that he's perhaps more likely to collect a Ballon d'Or simply because he's exciting to watch. In his final season at Aston Villa, however, he was starting to deliver a goal or assist on the regular - and should he get to a point at City of delivering good numbers, he might be in the conversation as one of the best players in the world.

Couple his own personal form with another league win for City, perhaps a European title, a couple of cups and maybe a good tournament with England... Grealish might be a dark horse for a Ballon d'Or in the next five to eight years. 

FFT's prediction: Jack Grealish never does win the Ballon d'Or, featuring on many "best players to never win the award" lists, despite great performances for City. He never does become the main attacker for England, either - but still delights when he plays. 

5. Phil Foden

Phil Foden

(Image credit: Getty)

Phil Foden is 21, already one of the best players on Earth in a number of positions on the pitch, playing for a club that seem likely to dominate the next decade of football. He might be England's best shot at a Ballon d'Or.

Foden will be 24 by the next Euros, 26 by the World Cup in 2026, 28 by the Euros after that and 30 during the 2030 World Cup which, perhaps, could be heading to England. If England win at least one of those tournaments with the City attacker playing a key role - and if City win the title that season, too - then the Ballon d'Or could be Foden's.

Simply, Foden has natural talent that England doesn't produce often and his prowess in big games is already stunning. He has to win it, right?

FFT's prediction: Foden becomes the first Englishman since Michael Owen to win the Ballon d'Or, as England win the 2026 World Cup and Manchester City win the treble. They couldn't not give it to him, really.

6. Jude Bellingham

England

(Image credit: Getty)

Jude Bellingham will be 27 by the 2030 World Cup. He's already one of the most talked about midfielders in the world and one of several incredible England players under the age of 21.

It's frightening how good this guy could become and in the next couple of years, he'll be able to choose where he goes. If he keeps up this incredible maturity, too, you know he'll make the right decision.

As a midfielder, Bellingham would have to put in phenomenal performances in big competitions to win the Ballon d'Or - but he's more than capable. If he's still playing at the top level at the age of 36, it'll be 2039. No pressure though, Jude: you've got plenty of time.

FFT's prediction: Jude Bellingham wins the 2030, 2031 and 2033 editions of the Ballon d'Or, becoming the undisputed best midfielder of a generation. Fans question why he didn't win the 2032 award after England won the Euros again - but it's still an all-England podium. 

7. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho

(Image credit: PA)

The kind of output that Jadon Sancho showed in the Bundesliga was phenomenal. If he can match that over his Manchester United career - and perhaps win a trophy or two along the way - he'll be on his way to greatness.

Sancho is another case of a youngster will their whole life ahead of him. At 21, he could feasibly be the match-winner in the 2030 World Cup for Sean Dyche's Three Lions, just weeks after scoring for Newcastle United in the first Champions League final held in space. 

Since assists are becoming a more valuable token in the modern game, Sancho might find himself getting plaudits for his teamwork in years to come, in a way that former Ballon d'Or winners haven't, too. The world is his oyster.

FFT's prediction: Jadon Sancho never does win the Ballon d'Or but features in the top 20 every year from 2023 until 2031. That's consistency.

8. Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood celebrating his goal against Wolves

Mason Greenwood is 20 years old and already has a phenomenal goal record. What if he has longevity like Cristiano Ronaldo and plays until his late thirties?

It's probable that Greenwood becomes a fixture for England in the near to mid-future of Gareth Southgate's team, with call-ups for the next three tournaments possible. Beyond that, he could still be playing for England in 2030.

Really though, Greenwood is a case of a player who might not even have to win a team trophy to be in with a shout of the Ballon d'Or. If he were to win the European Golden Shoe and top-score at an international tournament, it might be enough to get him the award. Though playing for a club as big as Manchester United means he'll probably get his fair share of team titles in his career...

FFT's prediction: Greenwood manages second in the 2026 vote after scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final, before winning it in 2027, after scoring 52 goals across the calendar year. 

9. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

(Image credit: Getty)

It would be fascinating to see a full-back win a Ballon d'Or one day. And perhaps no other would be in with a chance of it.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's assist figures have changed the game for the position - and should he star for Liverpool in a title-winning (or Champions League-winning) season, he might be in with an outside chance. Factor in international performances, too: Southgate seems more willing to pick Trent of late and it's not unlikely that he could start for England in Qatar. 

In fact, the 23-year-old might be a dark horse for next year's award. If Liverpool win a league and European double this season with Alexander-Arnold continuing his superb form, voters might fancy giving it to someone a little different... 

FFT's prediction: The closest that Alexander-Arnold comes to a Ballon d'Or is fifth - in 2024 and 2025 as exploits with Liverpool and England continue to keep him in good stead. Safe to say he retires as what many consider to be the greatest full-back ever, despite being snubbed for the big gong. 

10. Someone else

Emile Smith Rowe

(Image credit: Getty)

If there's one thing that Michael Owen taught us all those years ago, there's always a player who comes out of nowhere and becomes a household name. 

Michael Owen made his senior debut for Liverpool in 1996; two years later, he'd scored that stunning World Cup goal against Argentina and just five years after his senior debut, he'd won the Ballon d'Or - the same amount of time between Messi's debut and first win, incidentally. It took Ronaldo six years between debut and first win - though, Luka Modric had to wait 15 years into his career to win it. 

So while Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Cole Palmer, Shola Shoretire or any number of youngsters could become the next big thing in English football and win the Ballon d'Or, it could equally be someone we've never heard of. Get your bets on now - why not put a pound on your own child to get it...

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Mark White

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. He is a keen player of the Football Manager series and creates Twitter accounts for his Fantasy Premier League team every year, before losing interest in his team every September.