The events of the UEFA Champions League Knockout Stages have only added fuel to the fire in the battle for the Golden Ball. Some of the top players in the world, including Karim Benzema's successors, are in the last stages of their campaigns to win the 2023 Ballon d'Or in Paris.
With Qatar 2022 happening in the midst of the ongoing season, the competition for the Ballon d'Or has been shaping up to be unlike any other. Thus, it comes as little surprise that Lionel Messi has swept all 2022 accolades, including the World Cup, the World Cup Golden Ball, and FIFA's The Best title.
It shouldn't come as a shock if he ends up as the next Ballon d'Or frontrunner. There's no denying that his prospects of winning the Golden Ball have been bolstered by their performances in Qatar, even if the final stages of the Champions League have begun.
Who will win the 2023 Ballon d'Or according to Wayne Rooney?
For the 2023 Ballon d'Or, Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney backs Manchester City's Erling Haaland to beat out both Lionel Messi and his PSG teammate and Qatar 2022 Final opponent, Kylian Mbappe. Even while many people have the Argentine pegged as the favorite to win a record-extending eighth award, the current DC United manager thinks Haaland is more deserving.
"Erling Haaland is the best footballer in the world right now. Lionel Messi is the greatest but, at this moment, nobody is playing better than a striker who — even though I broke records in that position myself — takes my breath away with the levels he’s reaching. He’s the best in the world because of the numbers he’s posting, the performances he’s putting in and the mentality he shows", he opined in a piece for The Times.
"If you’re looking at who is going to win the Ballon d’Or then it has got to be him, providing he keeps up his form of this season. And why wouldn’t he? A record of 224 goals in 264 games is the mark of a player whose standards don’t drop. We’ve had the era of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, now this is his time, the era of Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. When there is a talent like him around you just have to enjoy it — even if he is wearing a Manchester City shirt.
"One of the things I like most about him is how different he is to nearly all modern players. Everyone wants the ball to feet these days but he wants to run off the ball in almost an old-fashioned way — run in behind and use his power to get clear, then his composure to beat the keeper. There’s something raw about how he plays, his hunger to score is huge. Like Messi and Ronaldo did, he could dominate the game for ten years."