The race for the 2022 Ballon d’Or is set to be one of the most open in years.
At the time of writing, there’s no real frontrunner for the award, although that will almost certainly change after the conclusion of the 2021/22 season.
The new Ballon d’Or rules mean that only performances in the current campaign will be taken into account, rather than the year as a whole – which means the 2022 World Cup will have zero impact.
So, who’re the current favourites to take the lead in the race as we approach the business end of the season? Well, L’Equipe have named the quintet of players they feel will battle it out for football’s most prestigious individual prize.
Let’s take a look at the world-class footballers they’ve selected…
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Benzema is enjoying the best season of his career and seems to get better with each passing week. He leads the way for goals AND assists in La Liga, while his performances in the Champions League have been exceptional. Benzema scored hat-tricks in back-to-back matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, which is some achievement. He also helped France win the UEFA Nations League in October, so it’s no wonder L’Equipe believe Real Madrid‘s talisman is currently the slight favourite for the Ballon d’Or.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Once again, Lewandowski is the leading scorer in a European football season. In Bundesliga action, the Pole has netted 32 goals in just 29 games, a record befitting of prime Messi or Ronaldo. The numbers are just absurd and if he can guide Bayern to Champions League glory, Lewandowski may finally get his hands on the Ballon d’Or.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
De Bruyne is in terrifyingly good form right now and his performance against Liverpool last weekend was a footballing masterpiece. Similar to Lewandowski, if the Belgian can lead his team to Champions League glory this season, you have to fancy City‘s big-game maestro to win the Ballon d’Or race.
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
It takes someone special to be the best player in a team containing Messi and Neymar, but that’s exactly what’s happened with Mbappe. He’s carried PSG in 2021/22 and the numbers produced by him are certainly Ballon d’Or worthy. In 39 games across all competitions, Mbappe has scored 31 goals and assisted a further 22 – remarkable stuff.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah has been Liverpool‘s main man throughout much of 2021/22, but L’Equipe feel Mane is ahead of his teammate in the Ballon d’Or race. Much of that has to be down to the fact that Mane guided Senegal to an Africa Cup of Nations triumph at the start of the year. The winger starred in the knockout stage of the tournament and also scored the winning penalty in the final versus Salah’s Egypt.
So, there you have it, a strong five-man list for the most part by L’Equipe, although the selection of Mane over Salah will no doubt ruffle a few feathers.
But it’s not like Mane has only excelled at the AFCON in 2021/22. He’s still scored 16 goals across all competitions for Liverpool and was on the scoresheet against City in the Reds’ most recent outing.