The 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony will be eagerly awaited for several reasons.
No date has been set for football’s biggest individual prize to be handed out as yet, but it will be the first year to take into account the change in the award criteria away from a full calendar year.
Previously, a player’s achievements from January to December in a given year were what the Ballon d’Or was based on, which rather confusingly made it two half seasons. Now, however, a typical full club season from one summer to the next is the timeframe things will be judged on.
Right in the middle of that for the 2023 award was the 2022 World Cup, with the finals in Qatar taking place after the 2022 Ballon d’Or ceremony. World Cup tournaments always heavily influence the make-up of the shortlist and this time will be no different.
There is still half a season of football to play, during which all the various club trophies will be decided. But off the back of the first half of the 2022/23 season and the World Cup, here’s a look at 15 of the early favourites for the next Ballon d’Or.
Ballon d'Or 2023 - early favourites
Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina & Morocco): His performances as the beating heart of the Morocco team that made African football history at the World Cup is sure to get him a nomination. His club career could even take a surge upwards if a January transfer comes about.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli & Georgia): If Napoli continue as they have started and win a first Serie A title since the days of Diego Maradona, there is every chance their newest star will be in the Ballon d'Or conversation. The 21-year-old had 18 goal involvements in 17 appearance before the break.
Enzo Fernandez (Benfica & Argentina): The World Cup's best young player is set to earn a big money move at some point in 2023. He was already on the radar of European giants but his breakout display in Qatar have now made him a headline name.
Achraf Hakimi (PSG & Morocco): The flying full-back is indispensable for both club and country. He was a key member of Morocco's World Cup heroes and is still hoping to win it all with Paris Saint-Germain come June. No defender has won the Ballon d'Or since 1996.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt): Absent from the World Cup but still put up excellent numbers for Liverpool prior to the mid-season break. His 15 goals in all competitions included seven in just six Champions League group games, although chances likely hinge on picking up silverware.
Luka Modric (Real Madrid & Croatia): The 37-year-old continues to defy logic with his performances for club and country. Real Madrid are eyeing another glut of trophies this season, while Croatia reached the World Cup semi-finals for the third time in their 30-year history.
Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa & Argentina): The World Cup Golden Glove winner is likely to be among the nominees for that feat. His incredible save late in the final against France directly contributed to Argentina eventually lifting the trophy.
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid & France): Playing at his third World Cup, the Frenchman reminded people exactly why he has the reputation he does. This is a slightly different Griezmann, too, the creator rather than the goalscorer.
Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid & Brazil): A disappointing World Cup, maybe, but 10 goals and five assists in 21 appearances for a Real Madrid side that has been left without Karim Benzema for much of the campaign tells its own story.
Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona & Poland): The goals haven't exactly dried up despite trading the security of German football for a new challenge in Spain - he has already scored 18 times in 19 appearances for Barcelona. Two goals in Qatar were also his first ever in a World Cup.
Kevin De Bruyne (Man City & Belgium): Looked a shadow of his usual self at the World Cup, yet his Manchester City form has been outstanding. It is already 15 assists and counting, with 10 in the Premier League and on course to break the competition record for a single season (20).
Neymar (PSG & Brazil): He matched Pele's all-time Brazil goal record during the World Cup and his club numbers have been incredible. So far in 2022/23, it is 27 goal involvements for a PSG side set to win another Ligue 1 title and in with a chance of elusive Champions League glory.
Erling Haaland (Man City & Norway): Manchester City's newest star didn't have the chance to play at the World Cup. Yet he has arguably exceeded expectations since moving to English football, scoring 24 goals in only 19 appearances by the time Christmas came around.
Kylian Mbappe (PSG & France): Only the second male player in history to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. He didn't win it but was a major reason France reached the final again and fired his way into sixth place on the all-time World Cup goalscorers list. It is 19 goals for PSG this season as well.
Lionel Messi (PSG & Argentina): Although other players are worthy nominees, it is almost impossible to see anyone else win the Ballon d'Or in 2023. He was the Golden Ball winner as best player at the World Cup, before finally lifting the trophy as captain. An astonishing eighth Ballon d'Or beckons.