Ballon d’Or: A brief history and the likely winners of its 69th edition

FILE – Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, center, holds the Ballon d’Or trophy, as former Manchester United players Denis Law, left, and Bobby Charlton, right, look on, at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Dec. 10, 2008. Bobby Charlton, an English soccer icon who survived a plane crash that decimated a Manchester United team destined for greatness to become the heartbeat of his country’s 1966 World Cup-winning team, has died. He was 86. A statement from Charlton’s family, released by United, said he died Saturday Oct. 21, 2023 surrounded by his family. AP Photo/Jon Super, File

The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious individual trophy that the magazine “France Football” awards annually to the best soccer player in the world based on votes from journalists in the top 100 ranked nations. This year, two players are at the top of the battle for this prestigious award. The history of the Ballon d’Or can be traced back to 1956 when France Football Magazine decided to give the best European player of the year, Stanley Matthews, an award to highlight his achievements. In 1995, the award opened to non-European players as well, with the first such player being AC Milan forward George Weah. Weah also made history as the first African to take home the Ballon d’Or. In 2007, it became open to all soccer players around the world. The award becoming international opened the door for Lionel Messi, who is regarded by many as the best player ever, to win it seven times.  

This year, on Oct. 30, the 69th edition of the award will be held at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, FR, and there are two clear favorites. Messi, the current holder, and Norwegian International Striker Erling Håland both finished the season with impressive stats to boost their chances of winning. Messi led Argentina to their first World Cup title since 1998 by scoring seven goals throughout the tournament, including crucial goals against Mexico to qualify for the knockout stage and two goals in the final against France. He also won the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint Germain, totaling 32 goals and 25 assists between the club and country. Messi also won the French League Cup Player of the Tournament, French Leagues Cup top scorer and Player of the Tournament in the World Cup. Håland also had an amazing season where he won a treble (when a team wins three major trophies in the same season) with Manchester City, leading them to their first-ever UEFA Champions League Title and breaking countless records.  

Håland holds the following records from the past season: the most goals in his first five Premier League appearances (nine), most Premier League goals in August by a single player (nine), the fastest player to reach 10 Premier League goals (six games), first Manchester City player to score on Premier League and Champions League debut, youngest player to score 25 Champions League goals, the first player to score in first four Premier League Away games, most goals in opening seven Premier League games (11), first player in the Premier League to score three consecutive hat-tricks in home matches, fastest player to score three Premier League hat-tricks (eight games), most goals in first eight premier league games (14), first player to have five goals involvements in a Manchester Derby, first player to score in seven successive Premier League games for City, fastest player to score 20 goals in a Premier League season (14 games), first player to score 20 Premier League games before January, fastest players to reach 25 goals under head coach Pep Guardiola (20 games), most Premier League goals in a season under Guardiola (35), fastest player to score four Premier League hat-tricks (19), fastest player to score 25 Premier League goals (19 games), most home goals in a single Premier League season (22), most goals by a City player in a single Premier League campaign (35), youngest player to score 30 goals in the Champions League, most goals scored by a Premier League player in a single season (51), most goals by a Premier League player in a 38-game season, most Champions League goals scored in a single season by a player at an English club (12) and the first English top-flight player to score 50 goals in a season since 1931. He also won many individual awards, including the Premier League Golden Boot, European Golden Shoe, Premier League Player of the Season, Premier League Young Player of the Season, FWA Men’s Footballer of the Year and Champions League Team of the Season. 

Both players had incredible seasons where they were able to achieve a lot. Many people are split on who should win the award, including legendary Spanish manager Pep Guardiola, who is Håland’s current coach at Manchester City, and Messi’s ex-coach at FC Barcelona.  

“Håland should win,” Guardiola told the media Friday. “We won the treble because he scored 52 goals, but, of course, Messi — his worst season is the best of most players. 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.”  

Although many fans and managers’ opinions are divided, many are expecting Messi will win his eighth Ballon d’Or this year that it was even “leaked” this week that he has won it. Either way, we have just under a week to find out who the official winner of the award will be, and both are well-deserving candidates. 

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