Spoiler alert: Karim Benzema will win the Ballon d’Or. It isn’t official, but it’s looking pretty obvious, so ahead of tomorrow’s shortlist unveiling our focus is on who will join him on the podium – and in what order.
Since starting our power rankings, Benzema’s place at the top of the billing has not shifted, so scroll down you may to No. 1, but there you will find no surprises.
The Real Madrid forward is deemed a shoo-in to win his first Ballon d’Or, and over the past few months he has been backed to claim the golden ball by – breathe in - Eden Hazard, Zinedine Zidane, Louis Saha, Vinicius Jr, Rio Ferdinand, Florentino Perez, Dani Alves and some bloke called Lionel Messi.
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But with the top-30 shortlist being slowly released tomorrow – you can follow the updates live right here on Eurosport – our concern here is how the top five might look, and which names may just miss out.
And a reminder, Messi’s recent exploits are too late for the voters to take into account, and while his overhead kick and did-he-mean-it assist helped the Argentine get this season off to an ideal start, he should not be in the reckoning for the 2022 Ballon d’Or – which takes into account the 2021-22 campaign. At least, that's what France Football's rules dictate.
So, without further ado, and without Messi – although it really wouldn’t surprise us if he still makes the podium – we count down from five to one, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s battle for second occupying most of our time.

5. Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid & Brazil)

Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid celebrates with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League final match between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Stade de France on May 28, 2022 in Paris, France.

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It is difficult to decipher whether Vinicius Jr should be looking over his shoulder at the players who could beat him to fifth, or whether he actually has a chance of making the podium given his exploits last term.
Benzema may have steered Real Madrid to Champions League glory, but Vinicius Jr goes down as the reason why they won the final, meeting Federico Valverde’s cross at the back post to break Liverpool’s hearts in Paris.
That was the last of 22 goals for the Brazilian in 2021-22, an impressive feat for the left winger given he provided 20 assists as well. A wide player with 42 G/A? They should always be in with a shout.

4. Kylian Mbappe (PSG & France)

Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

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As previously discussed, it is difficult to claim there are three players out there better than Kylian Mbappe, but PSG falling short in the Champions League again means he must wait another year to realise his Ballon d’Or dream - which, as we now know, he will attempt from the French capital, still.
With 39 goals and 26 assists for PSG last season, his efforts will not go unnoticed, however, but having looked like the match-winner against Real Madrid in the last 16 – which was shortening his Ballon d’Or odds by the minute – along came Benzema to wrestle the favourites tag away from him.
Maybe next year.

3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt)

2. Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich & Senegal)

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane of Liverpool pose with the trophy following their sides victory in a penalty shootout during The FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on May 14, 2022 in London, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

We’re sticking with our gut instinct and grouping these two together to explain our thought process: Voters love shiny silverware, but also individual success stories.
Both won the FA Cup and EFL Cup with Liverpool, and both agonisingly fell short in the Champions League and Premier League. They both even had chances to win the Champions League, and had one of them scored – Mane hit the post after a terrific save by Thibaut Courtois, who also denied Salah – and beat Real Madrid to the trophy then that individual may well have troubled Benzema at the top of the podium.
Of course, though, they did not have identical seasons. Salah took the spotlight from Mane at Liverpool, ending the campaign by sharing the Premier League’s Golden Boot with Son Heung-min, and scoring worldies against Watford and Manchester City to outline his sheer class. For his efforts, he won the PFA and FWA awards, and was voted Liverpool’s player of the year by both the players and fans as well.
With Mane for company, that should put Salah in second, right? Well. Then we come to the international stage, where Mane reigned supreme. Not only did he help Senegal conquer Africa for the very first time, but he did so at Salah’s expense, and rubbed salt in the wounds months later when ending Egypt’s hopes of reaching the World Cup in Qatar.
The two matches could not have been closer, with both being decided by a shootout, and had Salah enjoyed two winning moments he would be pushing Benzema close. Instead, as the fifth taker, he could only watch on as Mane scored the winner in the Africa Cup of Nations final, while a laser-heavy spot-kick in the World Cup qualifier saw him miss – moments before Mane, again, scored the winning penalty.
As a result, Mane beat Salah to the African Football of the Year award for the second time in a row, and that, that, is why we think he could edge the voting for the Ballon d’Or – behind Benzema, that is.

1. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid & France)

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid reacts during the Real Madrid CF training session and press conference ahead of the UEFA Super Cup Final 2022 at Helsinki Olympic Stadium on August 09, 2022 in Helsinki, Finland.

Image credit: Getty Images

We told you. No surprises. However, it is worth reminding that Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 appearances last season. A remarkable return that helped them win La Liga and clinch the Champions League as well.
Of his 15 goals in Europe, there were crucial hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea, and three goals across two legs against Manchester City in the semis. It was Benzema’s tournament, and 2022 will go down as his year.
Honourable mentions: Lionel Messi, for one, but if the judging is fair then he should get overlooked for the top five. Robert Lewandowski is more likely to feature after scoring 50 goals for Bayern Munich, while the romantics could propel Luka Modric up the rankings after some of his Champions League magic. Kevin De Bruyne could and should get there one day, but perhaps not this year.
Also, we went in-depth on the women’s top five last week, pondering where Beth Mead could slot in after her Euro 2022 heroics for England. Could she beat Alexia Putellas?
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