Mane, Ronaldo, Benzema, Messi: 2022 Ballon d'Or contenders ranked

Real Madrid's Benzema waves.

The race for the 2022 Ballon d’Or is over.

At least, that’s what the new rules implemented by France Football back in March suggest with the coveted title now set to be informed by performances over a season as opposed to a calendar year.

As such, now that the champagne and confetti of Real Madrid‘s Champions League triumph have petered out, we now – in theory – have all the data we need to be able to judge who’s going to take home the title.

2022 Ballon d’Or

So, as we await more information on when and how France Football are going to proceed with their new-look Ballon d’Or, we wanted to assess the lay of the land and ponder who deserves the title the most.

To do that, we’ve decided to use our trusty medium of Tiermaker to rank every player considered to have at least a 50/1 chance of winning the trophy on SkyBet at the time of writing into various categories.

Each and every touted candidate will be placed in one of ‘Absolutely no chance’, ‘Seismic shock’, ‘Outside chance’, ‘Genuine contender’ and ‘Deserving winner’ based on the opinion of yours truly.

If our pick for the winner and wooden spoon aren’t the same as yours, then that’s A-OK, it’s a completely subjective matter and we’d love to find out about your picks across our social media channels.

The Ballon d'Or at a press conference.
Soccer Football – Ada Hegerberg Press Conference – Groupama OL Training Center, Lyon, France – December 4, 2018 General view of the Ballon d’Or trophy before the press conference REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

Ranking Ballon d’Or contenders

But first, let’s dive into how we think the bookies’ favourites for 2022 Ballon d’Or glory rank and rate by walking through the different categories down below:

Absolutely no chance

Harry Kane, Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Virgil van Dijk and Neymar

Look, with all due to respect to these players – who are all world-class and could easily win the Ballon d’Or one day – there’s not a chance in hell that they’re getting anywhere near the golden football this year.

Kane ultimately had an average season by his lofty standards, Haaland was hampered by injuries for the most part and Foden still has a few years to go before he reaches truly world-beating levels.

Liverpool looked like a different animal with a fit and firing Van Dijk back in their team, but even his magnificent displays still fell comfortably short of his 2018/19 Ballon d’Or charge.

As for Neymar, we’re at a complete loss as to why he’s anywhere near the top end of the bookies’ odds because scoring a bang average 13 goals isn’t on the same planet as Ballon d’Or-winning form.

PSG's Neymar gives a wink.
Soccer Football – Ligue 1 – Clermont v Paris St Germain – Stade Gabriel Montpied, Clermont-Ferrand, France – April 9, 2022 Paris St Germain’s Neymar celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Seismic shock

Alisson Becker, Kevin De Bruyne, Lionel Messi, Vinicius Junior and Cristiano Ronaldo

We won’t beat around the bush: Messi and Ronaldo are here because, well, they’re Messi and Ronaldo. Let’s not pretend as though that fact alone doesn’t give them a slightly better chance of winning.

De Bruyne is currently riding a wave of recency bias that won’t be enough to drag him into contention and Alisson has all the odds stacked against him based on the simple fact that he’s a goalkeeper.

Finally, maybe we’ve been a little tough on Vinicius, who tallied up a mean 22 goals and 16 assists, but he’d be pinning most of his hopes on the voters being wooed by his winner in the Champions League final.

Man Utd's Ronaldo fumes.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester United v Watford – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – February 26, 2022 Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo reacts REUTERS/Craig Brough EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Outside chance

Kylian Mbappe and Thibaut Courtois

Like, maybe? Ok, truth be told, it’s still hard to see either of these players lifting the trophy, but at least it wouldn’t be such an earth-shattering shock that people would be rioting on the streets.

Mbappe has been phenomenal this season with a head-spinning record of 34 goals and 21 assists in all competitions, but is winning Ligue 1 and the UEFA Nations League really enough for Ballon d’Or glory even with the new rules?

And while Courtois’ chances will have risen exponentially on the back of a masterclass in the Champions League final, it’s hard to imagine the voters being swayed so much by one match as to give him the trophy.

Real Madrid's Courtois celebrates.
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Liverpool v Real Madrid – Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France – May 28, 2022 Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois celebrates after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Genuine contender

Sadio Mane, Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Salah

We can all see a world in which these three win, right?

At the end of the day, Mane has a lot of things going for him having amassed 26 goals and four assists for club and country en route to winning the Africa Cup of Nations, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

Salah, too, found himself chasing the quadruple dream at Liverpool and was undoubtedly the world’s best player at the back end of 2021, eventually finishing up with a record of 31 goals and 15 assists.

And lest we forget that Lewandowski – who’s essentially only Ballon d’Or-less based on a technicality – has casually flown under the radar despite winning yet another European Golden Shoe and amassing 50 goals.

Salah lifts the Golden Boot.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Anfield, Liverpool, Britain – May 22, 2022 Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah holding the Premier League Playmaker and Golden Boot winner trophies after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Deserving winner

Karim Benzema

If it’s not Karim, we riot.

Look, Real lifting their 14th Champions League title was the icing on the cake for Benzema’s Ballon d’Or charge, crowning off what we consider to be the strongest individual season of 2021/22.

Benzema helped himself to an outrageous 15 goals in Europe from just 12 games, smashing home hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea as well as three goals over two legs versus Manchester City.

He also bagged the Pichichi Trophy with 27 goals as Los Blancos plundered their way to La Liga glory, while also scooping the Supercopa de España and UEFA Nations League titles along the way.

Real Madrid's Benzema vs Liverpool.
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Liverpool v Real Madrid – Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France – May 28, 2022 Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Who do YOU think should win?

Do you agree, disagree or want to charge towards out headquarters with a pitchfork?

Like we say, the Ballon d’Or is ultimately just a little bit of fun and it’s incredibly rare that everybody agrees on the winner, so power to you if you think that Mane, Salah or even Courtois are more deserving.

And enjoy the debate because if France Football are true to their word, then all the information, statistics and trophies needed to judge the 2022 accolade have already been locked in.

The Ballon d'Or trophy.
Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano – Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain – December 15, 2018 The Ballon d’Or trophy inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Juan Medina

So, strap yourselves in and await the next steps as we rub our hands together in anticipation to see who will be crowned the finest male player of the 2021/22 season… it’s got to be Benzema, hasn’t it?

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