Ballon d'Or: Players who could win the award by 2030

Who will win the Ballon d'Or over the course of the next decade?
Who will win the Ballon d'Or over the course of the next decade? / Getty

Winning the Ballon d'Or is undoubtedly the pinnacle of any individual footballer's career; recognition as the very best player on the planet, as voted by the most respected voices in football.

In 2021 it is likely that that we will have a new winner as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's unprecedented stranglehold on the prize continues to slip - just as there was in 2018 when Luka Modric took the honour.

But with the post-Ronaldo and Messi era drawing ever nearer, who will be the future winners or the Ballon d'Or?

Of course there are a host of names at the peaks of their careers who will be vying to claim the prize in the not-too-distant future, but it is unclear who will emerge as the world's very best player over the next decade.

Here are 28 players under the age of 25 who will fancy their chances before 2030 rolls around...

Ibrahim Adel

Ibrahim Adel vs. Enyimba #TotalCAFCC

Ibrahim Adel ? Enyimba FC: 46’ Subbed on. ? 49’ Assist. ? 58’ Goal. ⚽️ 67’ Goal. ⚽️ A brilliant performance by Pyramids FC’s rising star in the #TotalCAFCC quarter-finals. ?

Posted by TotalEnergies CAF Champions League & Confederation Cup on Sunday, May 16, 2021

Egypt's next great hope, Ibrahim Adel is more than just 'the next Mohamed Salah'.

What they have in common is that Adel is a winger and a technical dribbler with an excellent eye for an assist or a goal. His technique is arguably even more pleasing on the eye, though.

Just watch the video above to get an idea of what he's capable of. He will eventually have to leave current side Pyramids in his home country to reach the top, but he has everything required to succeed in Europe.

Karim Adeyemi

Karim Adeyemi
Adeyemi is destined to go to the top of the game / Martin Rose/GettyImages

Dead-eyed striker Karim Adeyemi is destined to be at the top of the game for many, many seasons to come.

A technically gifted forward, the German has been putting up some ridiculous numbers for his tender years.

He will undoubtedly have to leave Red Bull Salzburg to stand a chance, and given he was born in Munich you can probably guess where he'll end up.

Felix Afena-Gyan

Felix-Ohene Afena-Gyan
Gyan has already fought his way into Jose Mourinho's plans / Danilo Di Giovanni/GettyImages

Felix Afena-Gyan will currently be remembered for scoring a stunning brace and earning a new pair of trainers from Jose Mourinho on just his third senior appearance for Roma.

However, the forward is certain to go on to make a name for himself in his own right. Having never played in any league in his home country Ghana, Afena-Gyan has been prolific in Roma's youth ranks.

Pacy with wonderful finishing ability, he has the perfect platform to go on to become a top Serie A striker.

Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham
Bellingham is one of England's great hopes / Michael Regan/GettyImages

An English midfielder of a bygone era, cut from the same cloth as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

At international level Bellingham is the midfield's great hope, and alongside another name on this list he will be dominating the middle of the park for England for a long time.

While Lampard and Gerrard never received the individual honour, Bellingham has an outside chance if he can hit the heights at club level.

Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camavinga
Camavinga has already secured his dream move to Real Madrid / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

You're always in with a shot at greatness when you're playing for Real Madrid aged 19.

Although he plateaued somewhat at Rennes, Camavinga has secured his dream move to the Spanish capital and the sky is the limit once again.

The fact he will be playing for a ridiculously talented France side means he will always be in with a shout of international silverware too.

Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa
Federico Chiesa is an old school winger / Chris Ricco/GettyImages

One of the more senior names on this list, Federico Chiesa has everything.

The beguiling Juventus winger already has a Euro 2020 crown to his name, and the level of consistency he displays means he will doubtless challenge for the individual honours.

Pace, wonderful footwork and devastating finishing ability - Chiesa was born to be at the top.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma
Donnarumma could become the first keeper to claim the prize for a long time / John Berry/GettyImages

It will take a monumental effort, but Chiesa's Italy teammate Gianluigi Donnarumma is well positioned to become the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin to win the Ballon d'Or.

That record has stood since 1963, but a nomination in 2021 following his country's Euro 2020 success suggests he's not far off.

Given the Azzurri's resurgence under Roberto Mancini and the near-certainty of Paris Saint-Germain eventually winning the Champions League, you wouldn't bet against him.

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati
Fati has huge potential / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

There is no doubting his talent, but the biggest threat to Ansu Fati's success is his own body.

If he can stay fit and avoid the niggling knee issues that have plagued the early years of his career, the sky is the limit.

He will hope he can emulate the previous incumbent of Barcelona's famed no.10 shirt.

Joao Félix

Joao Felix
Felix has work to do to make this dream a reality / Denis Doyle/GettyImages

A name on this list who faces an uphill battle to fulfil his obvious potential.

Despite his spellbinding technical ability, Joao Felix is yet to find himself at both club and international level.

It may be that he has to leave Atletico Madrid or outlast Diego Simeone at Wanda Metropolitano to truly be unlocked, and if that happens he could well be among the best players in the world.

Phil Foden

Phil Foden
Phil Foden is another of England's big hopes / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Bellingham's midfield partner-in-crime-to-be for England.

The kind of technical midfield player who we rarely see reach the top of the game on English shores, Phil Foden has got it (whatever 'it' is).

Already a star player in a Man City side that will always challenge for honours, and a soon to be a guaranteed starter in a promising Three Lions squad, who knows how far he can go.


Pablo Martín Páez Gavira "Gavi"
Gavi has shone for Barcelona and Spain / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

The latest player off the incessant La Masia conveyor belt.

Gavi has gone from starring in those YouTube compilations of Barcelona's youth teams tearing opponents to shreds to the starting lineup at Camp Nou. Luis Enrique quite likes him too, and he's already a regular for Spain.

A player in the mould of Andrés Iniesta, with a dash of Messi's low centre of gravity and dribbling prowess. A joy to behold, but much will depend on Barcelona's long journey back to the top of European football.

Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood
Greenwood is expected to be a top player for club and country / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

The lad can score from basically anywhere.

Although Mason Greenwood's international career has been closely managed so far, the young striker already has a load of goals to his name at club level

Once he's part of the England setup and if Man Utd can restore themselves to the upper echelons of European football, he stands a decent chance.

Erling Haaland

Haaland seems destined to win the honour / INA FASSBENDER/GettyImages

One for the 'inevitable' pile.

Erling Haaland is a goalscoring machine and unstoppable force, and alongside another forward on this list he could well dominate this award for years to come.

The Norwegian's success with personal accolades may well hinge on where he decides to move to once his time at Borussia Dortmund has run its course, especially given Norway will likely be underdogs on the international scene. He must choose wisely.

Kai Havertz

Kai Havertz
Havertz has work to do to fulfil his potential / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

Kai Havertz's potential is there for all to see, but he has work to do to fulfil it.

That's not to say he won't have the patience of his club, though, where he is already etched into the history books as the winning goalscorer in the Champions League final in 2021.

It feels as though he is simmering away, showing his ability in flashes at Chelsea. Once he finds some consistency he can be unstoppable.

Alexander Isak

Alexander Isak
Isak has already been around for a while / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

It feels as though Alexander Isak has been around for an age, but he's still so young.

The Swede's dribbling ability, pace and finishing prowess all mean he has the potential to become an elite level striker, but he'll have tough time emerging as the very best competing with some of the names on this list.

Lassina Traoré

Traore left Ajax to join Shakhtar / SERGEI SUPINSKY/GettyImages

The hope will be that a year-long layoff with a serious knee injury will not derail this remarkable youngster's career. He had already scored nine goals in just 14 games in 2021/22 before that.

The Burkinabé striker is best remembered for scoring five times in one match for Ajax back in 2020/21 - just a taste of what he's capable of. A fox in the box with devastating finishing prowess, he will bang goals wherever he's playing.

He's already shown his ambition to leave Amsterdam and join Shakhtar Donetsk to be the starting centre-forward. Who knows what he can go on to achieve.

Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappe
Surely Kylian Mbappe's time will come? / John Berry/GettyImages

All being well, Kylian Mbappé will win the Ballon d'Or sooner rather than later.

Will he have to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the near future to do so? Only time will tell.

What's clear is that he is already among the very best players on the planet aged just 22, and playing for the world's top clubs and one of - if not the - best international side on the planet, his chances are very, very strong.

Youssoufa Moukoko

Youssoufa Moukoko
Moukoko broke through at a very young age / Lars Baron/GettyImages

Having broken through at a ridiculously young age, it is all about scoring goals and finding consistency for young Youssoufa Moukoko.

He is of such a tender age that he will barely have reached his peak when 2030 rolls around, so time is on his side.

Can he top some of the other names on this list? It'll take a monumental effort.

Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala
Jamal Musiala is an exceptional young player / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world? Check. Represents one of the world's strongest footballing nations at international level? Check. Bags and bags of ability? Check.

England's loss is Germany's gain with south Londoner Jamal Musiala, who has already been tearing it up at both club and international level.

A technical dribbler of the highest order, he is going to go far.


Pedri has been a revelation / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Pedri was a revelation in 2020/21, propelled to stardom for both club and country.

As long as he isn't misused and run into the ground by his employers and national team, he can be among the best midfielders in the world for the next 15 years.

A player with supreme technical ability who is not afraid to do the dirty work, the potential of his midfield partnership with Gavi will have tongues wagging at Camp Nou.

Yeremi Pino

Yeremi Pino
Yeremi Pino is an exciting young player / Aitor Alcalde Colomer/GettyImages

Yeremi Pino will have plenty of competition, but he's already showing huge potential.

Already a full Spain international, the wide man boasts pace in abundance, exquisite ball-carrying ability and an eye for the spectacular.

He has everything required to take his place among the best wingers out there, although he may eventually have to leave Villarreal to challenge for the top honours.


Rodrygo Goes
Rodrygo is still developing / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Rodrygo's progress has gone somewhat under the radar, although there's no denying he's not quite there yet.

A decade is a long time in football, and if the Brazilian flair player can reach his potential there is no telling how far he can go.

The lad plays for Real Madrid and Brazil, for goodness sake.

Cristiano Ronaldo Jr

Cristiano Jr
Could Cristiano Jr emulate his father? / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Yes, you read that correctly.

Have you seen the workouts his dad has been putting him through?! If he doesn't make it as a top professional footballer you'd worry he might be disowned.

Cristiano Sr claimed the first of his four Ballons d'Or in 2008 aged 23, and he could have won one earlier. Cristiano Jr will be 21 in 2030 and his genes are presumably pretty decent. You do the maths.

Disclaimer: No idea if he's actually good at football.

Gio Reyna

Giovanni Reyna
Gio Reyna has the potential to hit the heights / Boris Streubel/GettyImages

Another exciting young talent who has plateaued somewhat, but Gio Reyna is still so young that he has plenty of time to turn things around.

It will be interesting to see whether the attacking midfielder can find enough success at international level in coming years to be considered for the top individual honours.

He'll need to avoid injury and find some consistency to stand a chance regardless.

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka has been a picture of consistency for Arsenal / Visionhaus/GettyImages

This guy has to be among the most consistent young wide players in world football.

It's a long shot given where his club Arsenal find themselves these days, but who knows what will happen over the next decade.

Saka is arguably the best out-and-out winger (at the time of writing) in an exciting young England setup, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.

Jadon Sancho

Sancho has struggled to impress at Man Utd
Sancho has struggled to impress at Man Utd / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

This may raise some eyebrows, but if you cast your mind back to Sancho's days of balling out for Dortmund it's easy to understand why he deserves his place on this list.

It is a simple matter the player and his club rediscovering their best form.

If he is starring and winning major silverware with Manchester United and England continue to have success at major tournaments, he will be in contention.

Vinicius Junior

Vinicius Junior
Vinicius Junior is starting to show how good he can be / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

A player who - after a few frustrating years - appears to have been unlocked by Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, where he's starting to put up some very impressive numbers.

Just like Rodrygo, Vinicius has the ideal platform to launch himself into the footballing stratosphere.

Whether his club can challenge for honours in the short-term remains to be seen, but you'd imagine they'll be back to their best soon enough.

Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz
Florian Wirtz has bags of potential / Frederic Scheidemann/GettyImages

Born in 2003 (two thousand and three), this kid has to be among the favourites on this list to claim football's top individual honour in the years to come.

Following in compatriot Havertz's footsteps at Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, he might just be better than his predecessor, scoring plenty of goals and laying on as many assists from his attacking midfield role.

Another player who will need to think hard about his next move if he wants to challenge for both team and personal accolades, but he is so good that that shouldn't be a problem.

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