logo
logo
It all looks set to go to another Madrid player...

2024 Ballon d’Or power rankings: Kane and Mbappe’s hopes in tatters – Vini Jr & Bellingham lead the way

We’re now getting to the point in the footballing calendar that the Ballon d’Or will likely be decided. The make-or-break business end clashes that previous winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo used to come alive for.

We now know that it’ll be Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund in next month’s Champions League final. Then there’s the Copa America and Euro 2024, which will also likely have a massive part to play in which of football’s elite superstars claims the most prestigious individual accolade in football.

With all that being said, and judging everything that’s happened this season so far, we’ve put together a top 10 power rankings of which names we expect to see fighting for the Ballon d’Or come the glitzy Paris ceremony in late October.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo (=)

Hear us out. Ronaldo’s fifth Ballon d’Or in 2017 was almost certainly his last. Almost certainly.

The 39-year-old has scored over 40 goals in 2023-24 and remains up there with the top goalscorers in world football. Of course, that’s out in Saudi Arabia, where he’s set to be pipped to the league title for a second successive year.

He could score a hundred goals in the Saudi Pro League and probably not be in the running.

But Ronaldo continues to lead the line for Portugal. The all-time top goalscorer in the history of international football has a chance of captaining his country to a second European Championships.

The Real Madrid icon scored 10 goals in Euro 2024 qualifying, second behind Romelu Lukaku, and he remains the figurehead of a Portugal squad packed full of younger talent.

If they win Euro 2024, expect to see a campaign ramp up for Ronaldo to get his mitts on a sixth golden ball.

Ronaldo has scored against a lot of teams.

QUIZ: Can you name every club Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 5+ goals against?

9. Mats Hummels (NEW)

Look, not even Hummels’ mum would argue that he’s been the best player in the world in 2024.

But football – and Ballon d’Or voters – love a good narrative. The veteran German was a colossus to help keep home-and-away clean sheets in Dortmund’s against-all-odds Champions League semi-final victory over PSG, while he popped up at the other end to head home their match-winner in Paris.

If Dortmund can do the impossible and beat Real Madrid at Wembley, they’d be the biggest outsiders to win it since Chelsea in 2012. And if Hummels can reproduce his PSG masterclass on the biggest stage in club football, there’ll be a genuine argument for him to become the first centre-back to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Those are very big ifs, though. Even if Dortmund do win the Champions League, they probably lack the individual star quality for any of their players to go and win the Ballon d’Or.

8. Erling Haaland

The Ballon d’Or hasn’t gone to a Premier League player since Ronaldo in 2008. That run, in all likelihood, looks likely to continue.

The biggest star name in English football  – who can feel unfortunate to miss out after a European Golden Shoe and star role in a treble last year – was recently likened to a League Two player by Roy Keane and has had some struggles of late with high-profile misses.

A lack of impact as Manchester City exited the Champions League to Real Madrid won’t do his case much good, nor will Norway’s absence from Euro 2024 this summer.

Still, Haaland could yet end 2023-24 with a domestic double and a second successive Premier League Golden Boot.

But his goalscoring numbers would have to go outrageously stratospheric in the latter half of the year for him to make ground with the star names competing for the Champions League and international honours.


READ NEXT: 13 players we can’t quite believe were nominated for the Ballon d’Or

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to make the Ballon d’Or podium in Messi’s eight wins?


7. Harry Kane (↓4)

The likes of Messi, Cristiano, Benzema and Ronaldo Nazario all followed up the European Golden Shoe with the Ballon d’Or. Kane has that individual accolade in the bag, but his trophy drought continues following Bayern’s Champions League exit.

We’d love to know what was going through his head when Thomas Tuchel subbed him off when Bayern were leading at the Bernabeu. He’d have been a leading contender had they been able to make it over the line and book a Der Klassiker rematch at Wembley.

The European Golden Shoe is one thing, but Kane now needs to captain England to Euros glory this summer if he’s to have any hope of winning this year’s Ballon d’Or.

READ: The 2023-24 European Golden Shoe contenders: Harry Kane leads the way…

6. Rodri (↑2)

Manchester City might’ve wrapped up the Premier League title by now had Rodri not earned himself a costly three-match earlier in the campaign.

There is little question that Rodri is the best player in his position in world football. It’s now over 70 games and 400 days since he last suffered defeat with City, if you don’t count the penalties against Real Madrid.

He’s also by some distance Spain’s standout individual. So much of their hope for Euro 2024 rests on his shoulders.

5. Lionel Messi (=)

We’re accustomed to seeing megastars like David Beckham, Gareth Bale, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic play out their twilight years in Major League Soccer. But not since the days of Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele in the NASL could the United States boast such royalty.

Never before has MLS been blessed with a superstar that’s genuinely still among the best in the world. Messi is tearing it up with Inter Miami, notching goals and assists for fun, and having the time of his life out in the Florida sunshine.

As with his eternal rival Ronaldo at Al Nassr, whatever Messi achieves in Miami is unlikely to move the needle. But he claimed his record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or after moving to America, becoming the first player not signed to a European club to lift the prestigious award.

That was for his heroic role in Argentina’s 2022 World Cup triumph rather than anything he did at club level.

There is another Copa America coming up, and with Messi in this kind of form we wouldn’t bet against La Albiceleste retaining it. If they do, there’ll be a case for Numero Nueve.

READ: The 10 players with the most goals and assists in MLS in 2024: Can anyone catch Lionel Messi?

4. Florian Wirtz (↑2)

The last player to win the Ballon d’Or without playing in the Champions League was Michael Owen back in 2001. The Englishman enjoyed an extraordinary 2000-01 campaign, shining for Liverpool as they claimed the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

Still, Owen was also somewhat fortunate that there were no international tournaments that year and Champions League winners Bayern Munich lacked any one outstanding individual.

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen are currently registering the best season from a club outside the Champions League since that Liverpool team. It’s now May and they remain unbeaten in all competitions. Forty-eight games and counting.

It’s truly been a team effort – from Granit Xhaka to Jeremie Frimpong to Victor Boniface – but homegrown wonderkid Wirtz is probably the closest thing they have to a bonafide star.

The 20-year-old is one of only two players in Europe’s five major leagues to’ve hit double figures for goals and assists and really ought to be in the running if Leverkusen can go on and make more history, following their first-ever Bundesliga title with a DFB Pokal, Europa League and an unprecedented invincible-on-all-fronts full campaign.

An outsider like Wirtz might just have a chance if Dortmund can produce the shock of shocks at Wembley. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on what he can do for Germany when they host the Euros, too.

3. Kylian Mbappe (↓2)

Mbappe is regarded by many as the best player in the world, and that status certainly helps. By the time the Ballon d’Or voting rolls around at the end of the year, Mbappe will almost certainly be a Madrid player and having Florentino Perez and vast swathes of the Spanish media behind him won’t hurt his cause.

Yet another Ligue 1 title has already been secured and there’s a Coupe de France final against Lyon to come. But PSG’s treble dreams were dashed in their Champions League defeat to Dortmund, while Mbappe’s failure to score in either leg has dealt a massive blow to his hopes of a first Ballon d’Or.

Really, with Madrid massive favourites in next month’s Champions League final, we’d have Mbappe in a very distant third. He’s a long way off the top two as things stand. But he can still rekindle his cause by leading France to Euro 2024 glory.

READ: Comparing Kylian Mbappe’s trophy haul to Lionel Messi’s at the same age

2. Jude Bellingham (=)

You arguably have to go all the way back to Alfredo di Stefano to find a player that made this kind of instant impact in their debut season at Real Madrid. Which for the club famous for Galactico signings is quite ridiculous.

Bellingham is Los Blancos’ top scorer in La Liga and the title has been sealed. He’s stolen the headlines with injury-time match-winners home and away against Barcelona. That’s something neither Messi nor Ronaldo ever did.

Four of the last five Ballon d’Or winners not named Messi have been Madrid players, and you can’t see beyond a member of their squad if they win the Champions League.

1. Vinicius Junior (↑3)

Bellingham has probably had the better, more consistent season. He was certainly a long way ahead of Vinicius when it came to impact in the first half of Madrid’s exceptional 2023-24 campaign.

But the Brazilian just seems to possess that unerring ability to peak at the key moments of the season. The Ballon d’Or is all about coming up big at the business end, and boy has Vinicius come alive in these Champions League knockout ties.

Two assists in the first leg against Manchester City. Two goals and a Man of the Match award away at Bayern Munich. It was Joselu that stole the headlines with his late show in the second leg, but Vinicius had been the best player on the pitch, tormenting poor Joshua Kimmich with a dazzling display – stark contrast to Mbappe’s comparatively meek displays against Dortmund,

If Madrid go on and win the Champions League as expected, England and Brazil’s fortunes at Euro 2024 and the Copa America respectively might come into play as a trump card when it comes to their two leading lights.