Ronaldo, Messi and Mbappe: Predicting the next 10 winners of the Ballon d'Or

  • Kobe Tong

The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award in football.

FIFA and UEFA might create their own iterations to crown each year’s number one player, but it’s ultimately France Football’s flagship accolade that is heralded the most by fans and professionals.

Lionel Messi holds the record for the most golden balls having won the trophy in 2019, although his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo is hot on his heels with an impressive five titles.

The likes of Marco van Basten, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Nazario, Franz Beckenbauer, Zinedine Zidane and countless other legends are also amongst the stars with a Ballon d’Or to their name.

So, one of the biggest questions on the lips of football fans is: who will follow in their footsteps?

Predicting Ballon d’Or winners

Sure, there’s every chance that Ronaldo and Messi will collect another title each, but putting a finger on who will win the Ballon d’Or when their duopoly is broken for good is a difficult challenge.

We recently looked at a 2012 prediction from Bleacher Report on the next 10 Ballon d’Or winners and now we’ve decided to chance our arm at GIVEMESPORT by taking on the same task.

So, leave your footballing acumen at the door and swap it for your nearest crystal ball because we’re getting seriously speculative – here are our predictions for each year’s best player up until 2029:

2020: Cristiano Ronaldo

Second place: Lionel Messi

Third place: Robert Lewandowski

Ordinarily, this would be the easiest prediction to make out of the 10, but the coronavirus pandemic means nobody is certain how much football will be played between now and the awards ceremony.

Who knows, there might not even be a Ballon d’Or ceremony if enough leagues are cancelled.

But let’s be glass-half-full for a second and plump for Ronaldo as our first winner having enjoyed a superb first three months that might be more important in the voting than it usually would.

CR7 is playing his best football yet in a Juventus jersey after scoring 10 times in 10 games since the turn of the year and might have the chance to move to 100 international goals.

You can guarantee that Messi will be somewhere on the podium and we’re backing Lewandowski to edge out Liverpool‘s Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk with his insane goal-scoring record this year.

2021: Lionel Messi

Second place: Kylian Mbappe

Third place: Sadio Mane

So, presumably with the world recovering from COVID-19, the footballing calendar will return to normal and the long-awaited decline of Ronaldo will be a key factor in our 2021 prediction.

We reckon his third season in Turin at 36 years old will bring about a steep decline in goals, opening the door for Mbappe to finally make the podium after winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2021.

Mane will also put himself into contention by winning another Premier League title with Liverpool, top-scoring in the Champions League and shining at the Africa Cup of Nations.

But this is the year of Messi. We’re going to stick our necks out and say this is the year that Messi will end his international heartbreak by inspiring Argentina to the 2021 Copa America crown.

That, and he’ll naturally score a bagful of goals for Barcelona to secure one final European Golden Shoe.

2022: Kylian Mbappe

Second place: Cristiano Ronaldo

Third place: Lionel Messi

Ah, World Cup year. Such is the strength of France’s current generation that we’re backing them to retain the title, becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to do so, with Mbappe as their star man.

The mercurial winger will be playing for Real Madrid at this point and his performances in Qatar will be enough to earn him the Golden Ball as well as a long-awaited Ballon d’Or that everyone has tipped him for.

This will also mark Ronaldo’s last appearance on the podium after bowing out of Portugal duties with five goals at the World Cup and seeing one final increase in his goals with Juventus.

There’ll be more heartbreak from Messi as he crashes out in the quarter-finals despite that Copa America victory, but another 30 goals for Barca will be enough to secure a bronze medal. 

2023: Lionel Messi

Second place: Kylian Mbappe

Third place: Erling Braut Haaland

Yes, we’re thinking bold with this one. We’re predicting Messi to win a EIGHTH Ballon d’Or at the age of 36, before dramatically announcing his retirement at the end of the 2023/24 season. 

Having bowed out of international football after the World Cup, the superstar will be able to drop an incredible final year at Camp Nou from a deep-lying position.

His goal tally might not compare favourably with that of Mbappe’s or Haaland’s, but more than 40 goal contributions – largely assists – will be sufficient to bag a league and cup double for Barca.

And as for the two players we’ve just mentioned, the latter will join Mbappe at the Bernabeu in the summer of 2023 and form a partnership that will truly reap the benefits in a few years to come…

2024: Kylian Mbappe

Second place: Erling Braut Haaland

Third place: Jan Oblak

The beginning of Real’s domination. Los Blancos rip the La Liga crown back from Barcelona in Messi’s final season, adding the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup for good measure.

The European Golden Shoe will end up in Haaland’s hands for the very first time, but superior all-round performances from Mbappe at the Euros, albeit in vein for France, will bag him the ultimate prize.

Oblak is now well established as the best goalkeeper of his era and some insane individual displays amidst a shock run to the Euro 2024 quarter-finals for Slovenia earn him a place on the podium.

2025: Erling Braut Haaland

Second place: Martin Odegaard

Third place: Kylian Mbappe

With no Euros to butter up Mbappe’s displays, Haaland has established himself as the main goal-getter at Los Blancos and we see a first one-club shutout of the podium since Barcelona in 2010.

Haaland hits his peak in the 2024/25 season with a mammoth 45 goals to his name, earning himself a second consecutive European Golden Shoe and Champions League trophy.

Odegaard is now an established member of the Real midfield, muscling his way into second place after wracking up the most assists in Europe and scoring twice in the Champions League final.

Meanwhile, Mbappe continues to prove himself as one of the world’s best, edging out a slew of Liverpool players who were being mooted for contention after a return to Premier League glory…

2026: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Second place: Erling Braut Haaland

Third place: Rodrygo

Having initially struggled to deal with an exodus of Jurgen Klopp, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool win a second Premier League title on the bounce and concede just 21 goals along the way.

That earns special praise for Alexander-Arnold who also bags himself 17 assists, a new record for a defender, and is also named as England’s best player on their way to the World Cup semi-finals.

Combine that with six Champions League assists as well as a glorious free-kick against Bayern Munich in a semi-final they would lose and TAA does enough to become the first defensive Ballon d’Or winner since 2006.

Haaland is forced to settle for a silver medal despite, you guessed it, winning the European Golden Shoe, but the main talking point in 2026 is the return of Bayern as a top continental contender.

The Bavarians snatched Rodrygo after Real sold him way too early and the young Brazilian scored 10 goals in European competitions alone as they bagged a first Champions League title in 13 years.

2027: Eduardo Camavinga

Second place: Rodrygo

Third place: Erling Braut Haaland

Ok, let’s take a breather here for a second. It goes without saying that we have our tinfoil hats firmly on by this point and there really is no logical way to predict who’ll be dominating the sport in 2027.

But… we’re putting our faith in Camavinga. Having first signed for PSG after his early days at Rennes, he was snapped up by Real as Mbappe’s replacement following his compatriot’s move to Chelsea.

An astonishing 30 goals from the wing in La Liga, despite largely being Haaland’s supply-line, was enough to bag Camavinga the Ballon d’Or in one of the award’s quieter years.

Rodrygo continues to impress with Bayern as they hoover up all the domestic titles in Germany and another 30-plus-goal season for Haaland means the hype around him secures a podium place.

2028: Rodrygo

Second place: Eduardo Camavinga

Third place: Vinicius Junior

Finally, the Ballon d’Or that Rodrygo deserves in our fantasy land. The Brazilian suffered defeat in the Champions League final, but threatened Ronaldo’s goal-scoring record with 15 strikes in Europe.

He also managed to notch up 30 goals domestically as Bayern won the Bundesliga title with over 100 points and was named the Copa America’s best player as Brazil romped to the trophy.

Vinicius, too, was a key player in that Brazil team, top-scoring the tournament with five goals, and was also impressing for a Manchester City team that won its first European crown.

But Camavinga continued to do enough at the Bernabeu to keep himself in contention, leading the goal-scoring charts in La Liga and the Copa del Rey despite only winning the former.

2029: Erling Braut Haaland

Second place: Mason Greenwood

Third place: Xavi Simons

Look, we’re now ten years into the future. Sod it, let’s go wild with the predictions.

We’re forecasting an unexpected return to form for Haaland who, having watched Camavinga reunite with PSG, has become Real’s star man again and inspired them to yet another Champions League trophy.

Then, Greenwood of all people has been quietly impressing for years at United – winning two Premier League Golden Boots – but finally graduates to world-class status in 2028/29.

His ten goals in the Champions League are enough to inspire United to the final, while Simons is back with Barcelona and is slowly filling Messi’s boots by scoring 33 goals in all competitions.

So difficult to predict

This is going to look so, so stupid in a few years, isn’t it?

I’m feeling like an undercover policeman that got in way too deep.

Ok, so, it turns out that predicting the next 10 Ballon d’Or winners is nigh on impossible and you have to get seriously hypothetical with transfers and competitions to even attempt it.

We have no idea whether Mbappe will be lighting up with the Bernabeu with Haaland or whether Alexander-Arnold will lift the golden ball one day, but it’s certainly amusing to try and guess. 

In the end, it simply seems that predicting the Ballon d’Or is about as hard as winning it. Kinda.

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