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Going for Gold

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The Ballon d’Or is one of the most prestigious awards in world soccer. The first time this Golden Ball was awarded was in 1956 when Stanley Matthews won; since then, it has become a dream of almost every soccer player world wide. An extensive list of legendary winners includes Raymond Kopa, Johan Cryuff, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Michael Owen, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. In 2018, it was announced there would be a Ballon d’Or awarded to the best female player of the year. The first ever Ballon d’Or Feminin was awarded to Ada Hegerberg, and since then, Megan Rapinoe and Alexis Putellus (who has won the award twice). With an incredible list of nominees this year, this might be one of the more difficult seasons to predict a winner. Let’s take a look at my top three for each award.

Female Nominees

Photo Credit: Kim Price

Aitana Bonmati

This World Cup winner has had a fantastic year - player of the tournament, Champions League winner, and Liga F winner. Aitana’s list of accolades continues to grow, as it should, as she is one of the most valuable players in the world currently. It would be no surprise to me if she were to add the Golden Ball to her ever-growing list.

Photo Credit: David Gray

Rachel Daly

Golden boot winner in the WSL after a move back to England from the Houston Dash, Daley scored 22 goals in 22 games. She was selected to represent her country at the World Cup and had a crucial impact in some games, Rachel definitely left her mark on the field and shows. After a record-breaking season and an expected growing goal tally for this upcoming season, I see Daly as a perfect contender.

Photo Credit: Tom Dulat

Sam Kerr

Australian superstar Sam Kerr has placed third in the Ballon d’Or awards twice now, and I’m sure many are thinking about when she will break that unfortunate streak. As Chelsea's top goal scorer last season and flipping her way into its history books, if she were to win the award, she would become the first Chelsea player, male or female, to win it.

Male Nominees

Photo Credit: Tim Goode

Erling Haaland

Premier League winner, Champions League winner, FA Cup winner, top goalscorer in England, and notorious record breaker Haaland racked himself up for a good year. 35 goals in 32 games is a pretty impressive feat. As well as scoring goals in the Champions League, he is on quite a roll for being crowned King of soccer. There are just a few players that stand in his way.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Vinicius Jr.

The Brazilian has had quite a few crazy years. Winning the Champions League in 2022, playing in a World Cup, winning two La Liga titles all before turning 23 years old. He had ten goals and ten assists in twenty La Liga matches and seven goals in twelve Champions League games. Finishing 8th in the Ballon d’Or awards last season, many hope he can take it home this season.

Photo Credit: Gustavo Garello

Lionel Messi

What more could be said about this man? He was finally crowned the world champion in December with Argentina and is still killing the game as he did years ago. A big move to Inter Miami and Messi showed that he really is the best player in the world. If he won the award for the 5th time, he would undoubtedly have capped off the best season of his career.

Honorable Mentions

Jude Bellingham

While the 20-year-old has just made a huge move to Real Madrid and has already won the La Ligas Player of the Month award, I can see Bellingham finishing high on the runners-up list. Although I don’t foresee the midfielder winning the award this year, I do see him winning the Kopa Trophy (under 21 player of the year) , and there is no doubt in my mind he will win the Ballon d’Or one day in the future.

Mary Earps

Arguably, Mary Earps has become the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment. With an immense performance in the World Cup, an immeasurable WSL season with Manchester United, and the stories of her EUROs campaign from 2022 still being talked about, Earps has become a household name. While it was a surprise to her to be nominated, it was no surprise to me and others. I hope to see her finish relatively high on the list of runners-up.

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