Luka Modric is the only player other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or since 2007. The duopoly is coming to an end, however, despite Messi winning the award in each of the last two years it was handed out.
Modric’s Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema is the huge favourite to win the Ballon d’Or in 2022. Benzema is on course to be the first French winner since Zinedine Zidane in 1998, and the sixth Real Madrid player to lift the trophy this century.
For the first time, the 2022 Ballon d’Or will be awarded based on the previous season rather than the calendar year. Messi did not even make the 30-man shortlist for the first time since 2005.
Benzema was pipped to the European Golden Shoe by Robert Lewandowski, but the Real Madrid striker collected numerous other accolades both team and individual. He starred in Los Blancos’ dramatic Champions League run, held the La Liga trophy aloft yet again, and won the Pichichi Trophy for the first time.
Team success often plays a major role when it comes to Ballon d’Or voting. No other candidate can match Benzema’s league and Champions League double, and there’s no question he was Real’s most important player throughout the season.
Nominated for the Ballon d’Or in nine previous years, Benzema has never finished in the top three, but he’s pretty much guaranteed to win it this time.
While a Ballon d’Or is probably in Mbappe’s future, 2022 isn’t going to be his year. He is yet to record a top three finish, and his candidacy going forward is dependent on PSG performing in the Champions League.
Mbappe is posting the raw goal-scoring numbers to be in contention, but a last-16 exit to Benzema’s Real Madrid in the Champions League effectively ruled him out of Ballon d’Or contention this time.
Mo Salah was a couple of matches away from winning the 2022 Ballon d’Or. If Liverpool had beaten Manchester City to the Premier League title and defeated Real Madrid in the Champions League final, Salah would almost certainly have won the award.
Instead, the Egyptian had to settle for two domestic cups and a loss in the Africa Cup of Nations final. Salah had a brilliant season, but runners-up finishes in the Premier League and Champions League are not enough to power a Ballon d’Or win.
Winner of AFCON with Senegal, Sadio Mane cannot match Salah’s goal record, but he has that extra bit of team success to help his cause.
Mane only scored 16 league goals in 2021-22, however, which is a long way shy of the other contenders. Senegal’s success might nudge him into the top three, but he’s not going to get anywhere close to Benzema.
The former Liverpool forward would be the first African player to finish in the top three since George Weah won the Ballon d’Or in 1995.
Much like Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski’s Ballon d’Or candidacy suffered a knockout blow when Bayern Munich fell to Villarreal in the last eight of the Champions League. The Pole scored 35 times in 34 Bundesliga starts, but dominating Germany in an unstoppable Bayern team is not enough to put him in real contention.
There’s a sense Lewandowski missed his chance at the Ballon d’Or when the award was cancelled in 2020. It will take something special at Barcelona in the next couple of seasons for Lewandowski to win it.
All odds are subject to change