Ballon d’Or power rankings: Karim Benzema favourite as Euro 2022 looks pivotal for women’s award
Lyon’s Champions League triumph has opened the Ballon d’Or door when it comes to the women’s award, and there is every chance the outcome of Euro 2022 could have a major say as well. When it comes to the men’s winner of France Football’s prestigious prize, the race appears to be over, but the podium remains up for debate.
'We've achieved lots' Ballon D'Or winner Putellas speaks as Barcelona mark International Women's Day
Welcome to our Ballon d’Or power rankings. It is a couple of months before we will learn the shortlists, and while Karim Benzema is widely expected to win the men’s award, the women’s winner could be determined by the outcome of Euro 2022.
Here, we present our Ballon d’Or power rankings, where we’ve opted for a top-five for the sake of making for some difficult omissions. Sorry, Lionel and Cristiano…
Defenders and individual awards. This is not typically a match made in heaven, and so Wendie Renard will need a wave of support behind her to beat the flurry of attacking stars we’ve selected below.
As captain of the side who won the French league and Champions League, her case is a strong one, and the Lyon centre-back has at least made the top 10 twice already – coming joint-seventh in 2018 and sixth a year later.
If she can lead France to Euros glory as well, she’ll unquestionably get bumped up this list.
4 – Marie-Antoinette Katoto (PSG & France)
Not only do France boast Renard at the back, but they also have the clinical Marie-Antoinette Katoto up front, and it is why the nation are deemed third favourites – narrowly behind Spain and England – to win the Euros.
In Katoto, France have a striker who beat Lyon’s star-studded list of players to win the domestic player of the year award, with 18 goals seeing her top the Division 1 scoring charts for the third time in four campaigns.
She also made UEFA’s Champions League Team of the Season, and with almost a goal a game for France, expect her to lead the charge for her side – starting with their opening group game against Italy on July 10.
3 – Sam Kerr (Chelsea & Australia)
After finishing a career-high third in the Ballon d’Or standings last year, Sam Kerr could well place there again in August.
The Australian was the standout player in the Women’s Super League, spearheading Chelsea’s title defence and sealing it with a memorable double on the final day.
That resulted in 20 WSL goals in 20 games, and though she scored four more in the Champions League, Chelsea’s shock group-stage exit could well count against her when the votes are collected.
Mohamed Salah, Sam Kerr
Image credit: Eurosport
2 – Ada Hegerberg (Lyon & Norway)
A year ago this would have been laughed off, mainly because Ada Hegerberg wasn’t playing football back then. Now, though, she has put her injury hell behind her – and in some style.
The winner of the first women’s Ballon d’Or back in 2018 could well do it again, and scoring in the Champions League final win over Barcelona did her chances no harm, capping off another memorable campaign.
Add to that a return to the Norway squad for the Euros and Hegerberg looks to be a woman on a mission, out to play catch-up after those 21 months out with injury.
1 – Alexia Putellas (Barcelona & Spain)
The reigning Ballon d’Or winner and UEFA’s Champions League Player of the Season. Her name’s on the 2022 Ballon d’Or trophy too, right?
A perfect league campaign would tell you yes, with Putellas scoring 17 goals and recording 16 assists as Barcelona made it 30 wins from 30 (you read that right).
The only blot on her report card is the Champions League final defeat to Lyon, although she was still able to score a consolation to take her tally to 11 in that competition.
Carrying Spanish hopes at the Euros, Putellas may well be a shoo-in already, but if Spain don’t lift the trophy then these rankings could well change.
Watch this space – and if the Dutch turn up, Vivianne Miedema or Lieke Martens could well feature.
Men’s Ballon d’Or rankings
5 – Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid & Brazil)
Backed by compatriot Neymar to win the award, Vinicius Jr peaked at the right time in terms of emerging as a contender, with his goal in the Champions League final ultimately the winner.
It capped off a season of 22 goals and 16 assists, although he is under no illusions that team-mate Karim Benzema is fancied to win the award.
“I’m really happy that Neymar said that I should win the Ballon d’Or, but in my opinion, Benzema deserves it more,” the 21-year-old said recently.
Vinicius Junior, unique buteur de la finale de la Ligue des champions remportée par le Real Madrid.
Image credit: Getty Images
4 – Kylian Mbappe (PSG & France)
If the award was not so driven by Champions League success, then perhaps Kylian Mbappe would be the answer to the simple question of ‘Who is the best player in the world?’.
That means he should win this award, then, right? As we all know, it doesn’t quite work like that, and while few doubt the Frenchman will one day win the Ballon d’Or, PSG’s last-16 exit will surely dent his hopes of winning it this year.
It was all looking so good in the first leg against Real Madrid, with Mbappe scoring the winner, but then in the second leg – Benzema happened…
3 – Sadio Mane (Liverpool & Senegal)
Expect us to flit between second and third when it comes to Sadio Mane and his, for now, club team-mate below.
Mane has the benefit of winning a continental competition this season, and having played a starring role in Senegal’s AFCON triumph as the player of the tournament and scorer of the winning penalty, he further boosted his chances when breaking Egyptian hearts again to help his side reach the World Cup.
“I would be the happiest player in the world,” Mane said when asked about the Ballon d’Or, although that came before the Champions League final.
By the time of our next update, Mane could well be a Bayern player – and if Robert Lewandowski moves on, the former will see that as his chance to be the star of the show, having shared the limelight at Liverpool with…
'I have nothing to do with Ballon d'Or nominations' - Klopp on Mane
2 – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt)
If the boot was on the other foot and Salah had guided Egypt to AFCON glory and then to the World Cup in Qatar, then it would be a close-run race.
If Liverpool had won the Champions League, it would have been even closer.
But alas, these are only ifs and Salah is likely to fall short despite his award-winning season in the Premier League, where he topped the scoring and assist charts.
Salah was “shocked” to finish seventh in the Ballon d'Or race last year, and while he and Mane are in line to make the podium, their hopes of becoming the first African to win since George Weah will run on for another year.
1 – Karim Benzema (Real Madrid & France)
Give it to him now. We’ll be upfront and declare right now that there is very little to displace Karim Benzema at the top of the men’s rankings, and with Lionel Messi among his supporters, it appears his name is already on the trophy.
That is – it’s worth reminding – because of his blistering campaign for Real Madrid, with 44 goals in 46 games including 15 in the Champions League alone.
A hat-trick against PSG, another against Chelsea, and crucial contributions against Manchester City – never mind a blank in the final, this was the year Benzema won Real Madrid the Champions League.