The Ballon d’Or ceremony is scheduled for Monday night in Paris.
World Cup champion Lionel Messi is set to win his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or ahead of Manchester City’s treble-winning striker Erling Haaland, according to renowned journalist Fabrizio Romano.
The acclaimed report comes a week before the Ballon d’Or ceremony, which is scheduled for October 30 in Paris.
If accomplished, the award would place Messi to lift his eighth Ballon d’Or after recording seven goals and a World Cup-high of three assists in the 2022 Qatar FIFA tournament.
Becoming the first player in World Cup history to score in the group stage, last 16, quarter-final, semi-final, and final at a single tournament – while picking up a record haul of five Man of the Match awards, the 36-year-old excelled in his performance.
After years of early elimination in his World Cup renditions, Messi was no longer in the shadow of famed Diego Maradona, who captured the 1986 FIFA title.
Despite being applauded for his performance, critics have called out the favoritism of Messi as he built his candidacy almost entirely on his performance at the World Cup.
Footballer Michail Antonio stated it would be a “scandal” if Lionel Messi beats Erling Haaland to the 2023 Ballon d’Or.
“I understand Messi winning the World Cup is massive, but you can’t look past a treble-winning team and what Haaland bought to that, breaking records. He deserves that Ballon d’Or. If he doesn’t get it then it’s a scandal,” Antonio said on the Footballer’s Football Podcast.
The former PSG played two seasons at the Parisian club only to exhibit an underwhelming performance as he failed to secure the Champions League title despite a star-studded team.
On the other side of the fence is Haaland, who scored 52 goals for Manchester City in all competitions last season.
After breaking the record for the most goals scored in a single Premier League season (36) and helping City win the treble, Haaland has been the main rival to Messi for the Ballon d’Or best men’s player award.
However, even Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has mischievously suggested that Messi could win his own Ballon d’Or award, putting aside his own player.
“I always said that the Ballon d’Or had to be two sections: one for Messi and one for the others,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Premier League game with Brighton.
“But of course, Messi, if you tell me the worst season of Messi it is the best for the rest of them. Both deserve it. Egotistically I would say I want Erling because he helped us to achieve what we achieved. I would love it, but I won’t tell you it’s unfair if Leo wins,” the former coach to Messi.
Messi is one of just four players to have won the award in the last 15 years, along with five-time conqueror Cristiano Ronaldo, who has not been nominated for this year’s edition, ending a 20-year run by the second-most decorated player in the trophy’s history.
The Argentina captain last won the Ballon d’Or in 2021. Last year, at 34, Benzema became the oldest award winner in 66 years and the first Frenchman to win the prestigious award since Zidane in 1998.