Ballon d’Or 2024 Power Rankings: Rodri on the rise as Vinicius Jr and Jude Bellingham trade blows at the top

The race for the Golden Ball is hotting up – so which of the game’s biggest stars are true contenders, and who are merely pretenders?

After a season headlined by him finally getting his hands on the World Cup, Lionel Messi took home his eighth Ballon d’Or after picking up the 2023 prize in Paris back in October. The footballing world has moved on, though, and now debate is raging as we gradually move towards knowing the identity of the 2024 winner.

Though club games in Europe are now over for another season, it continues to be an intense race. Along with the usual domestic ups and downs, this is a campaign that has the majority of the globe’s best players taking part in international tournaments, including the European Championship and Copa America this summer.

So after a year that was defined by the battle between Messi’s tournament success for Argentina and Erling Haaland’s season-long superiority at Manchester City, how much of a bearing on the 2024 Ballon d’Or race will those international competitions have? Meanwhile, could we see the first win from someone who plays their club football outside of Europe, as more and more of the game’s biggest names head to up-and-coming leagues in other parts of the world?

One thing for certain is that WE will be here every step of the way to track the contenders for the biggest individual prize the game has to offer. Ready to join us for the ride? Then step right in for the latest update of our Ballon d’Or 2024 Power Rankings…

20Marcel Sabitzer (Borussia Dortmund)
In 2023-24: 10 goals, 11 assists.

Sabitzer has always been regarded as a solid midfield presence for both club and country, but he has enjoyed a stellar 12 months since joining Borussia Dortmund from Bayern Munich. He played a key role in BVB reaching the Champions League final, with his performance in the second leg of their quarter-final win over Atletico Madrid one of the best by an individual in the whole knockout stages.

What might nudge Sabitzer onto a couple of Ballon d’Or voting slips, though, are his performances for Austria at Euro 2024. The 30-year-old has been a standout for Ralf Rangnick’s dynamic side in Germany, and having been rewarded with a favourable draw after winning their group ahead of France and the Netherlands, Sabitzer could yet find himself in another showpiece final before the summer is done.

19Granit Xhaka (Bayer Leverkusen)
In 2023-24: Five goals, three assists. Won Bundesliga & DFB-Pokal.

There were some who felt that Xhaka’s career at the highest level was over when he left Arsenal to join Bayer Leverkusen last summer, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The midfielder was one of the star’s of Xabi Alonso’s all-conquering team in 2023-24, as he missed just one game of their unbeaten Bundesliga campaign while popping up with the odd important goal or assist.

Xhaka has carried that form into Euro 2024, where is captaining a Switzerland side who have impressed many with their fluidity and defensive discipline. The draw has opened up somewhat for them, too, meaning there could yet be more silverware in the offing for Xhaka before the summer is over.

18Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) ⬇️
In 2023-24: 20 goals, 15 assists.

Anyone who believed Arsenal might fall away after last season’s title-race disappointment was proven wrong in 2023-24, with Saka leading the way for Mikel Arteta’s side as they aimed to break their long Premier League trophy drought.

The England winger started 2024 in electric fashion as the Gunners showed their best form of the campaign, but they still managed to come up agonisingly short in their battle with Manchester City, while they also crashed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage in limp fashion to Bayern Munich, with Saka kept quiet in Bavaria.

Back in Germany this summer with England, Saka kicked-off Euro 2024 by providing an assist for Jude Bellingham to score against Serbia, but the Three Lions’ underwhelming tournament so far suggests this is going to end in more disappointment for the wideman.

17Fede Valverde (Real Madrid)
In 2023-24: Five goals, eight assists. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

Perhaps the most underrated player in the Real Madrid line up, Valverde enjoyed an excellent campaign for Los Blancos as his tireless midfield displays allowed others around him to flourish. His attacking numbers don’t jump off the page, but the 25-year-old offers much more than just goals and assists.

He is now bidding to cap a wonderful campaign by earning Copa America glory with Uruguay. Marcelo Bielsa’s side have arguably been the most impressive team during the group stages, meaning Valverde has a real shot at adding another winners medal to his ever-growing collection.

16Lamine Yamal (Barcelona) ⬆️
In 2023-24: Nine goals, 16 assists.

Barcelona may have endured a trophy-less season packed with yet more off-field drama, but the emergence of Yamal as perhaps their best player at the age of 16 has given the Blaugrana hope for the future. The winger set record after record in La Liga, and looks to be the next generational talent to have emerged from La Masia.

His performances for Spain at Euro 2024, meanwhile, have introduced the teenager to a wider audience, and if he can continue shining as La Roja aim to go deep in Germany, then a place on the Ballon d’Or shortlist shouldn’t be beyond him.

15Lionel Messi (Inter Miami) ↔️
In 2023-24: 27 goals, 17 assists. Won Leagues Cup.

Surely not number nine?! Messi became the first man playing outside Europe to win the Ballon d’Or in 2023, but he earned the prize for his performances while employed by Paris Saint-Germain. Could he now win a Golden Ball while playing exclusively on the other side of the Atlantic?

The odds are admittedly stacked against him. With the MLS season having only begun in February, Messi will not be able to win any meaningful domestic trophies during the voting period for the 2024 award. His hopes of continental success are also over, as Miami crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup thanks to an embarrassing quarter-final exit at the hands of Monterrey.

However, Messi has been in electric form for Miami so far this campaign, and though he has had a quiet start to this summer’s Copa America with Argentina, if he can lead La Albiceleste to a third-successive tournament triumph, then all Ballon d’Or bets might be off.

14Lautaro Martinez (Inter) ⬆️
In 2023-24: 34 goals, eight assists. Won Serie A & Supercoppa Italiana.

If any moment summed up Lautaro’s big-match struggles, it was his woeful penalty in Inter’s shootout loss to Atletico Madrid that ended their hopes of reaching a second-successive Champions League final in the last 16.

The striker was on a tear in Serie A this past season, though, as he led Inter to a dominant title win, and could yet be part of a victorious Argentina squad at the Copa America. He has certainly got off to a good start in that regard, as he netted four times during the group stages to put himself in pole position to claim the Golden Boot.

13Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid) ↔️
In 2023-24: Seven goals, eight assists, 21 clean sheets. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

One of the unsung heroes of Real Madrid’s season, Carvajal stepped up at big moments throughout the campaign with key goals and assists while also locking down the right side of defence. No more clear was his impact than when he opened the scoring in the Champions League final to help secure a 15th European Cup for Los Blancos.

He looks to have carried that form into the international arena, too, having already found the net at Euro 2024 for a Spain team who have been mightily impressive in their run to the quarter-finals.

12Erling Haaland (Manchester City) ↔️
In 2023-24: 45 goals, six assists. Won Premier League, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.

Haaland could barely have done more to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or and yet still came up just short, so could he get over the hump this time around? The answer looks likely to be ‘no’, as despite his fine goal-scoring record, he has endured some forgettable performances in 2024, most recently in the FA Cup final. He could still ended the campaign with a league title after claiming the Premier League Golden Boot, but going out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals is likely to prove costly to his Golden Ball hopes.

That is because of the biggest obstacle that was already in Haaland’s way, which is that he will again miss the big summer tournament after Norway failed to qualify for Euro 2024. There was always a chance that if other contenders shine in Germany, then Haaland’s potential heroics might be forgotten come voting time. As it is, they might merely push him further down the final rankings.

11Rodrygo (Real Madrid) ⬇️
In 2023-24: 19 goals, nine assists. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

Rodrygo’s form fell off somewhat after a strong finish to 2023, while there is no doubt that others at Santiago Bernabeu dominated the headlines far more than the Brazilian winger. However, his goals in both legs of Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final win over Manchester City mean he should remain in the minds of Ballon d’Or voters despite a forgettable showing in the final.

The forward could still lead his country to glory at the Copa America, too, meaning he could find himself among the true Golden Ball contenders come the end of the summer.

10Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid) ⬆️
In 2023-24: Three goals, three assists, 20 clean sheets. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

At the start of the season, Rudiger wasn’t even in Real Madrid’s first-choice XI, but injuries to Eder Militao and David Alaba saw him emerge as the senior centre-back at Santiago Bernabeu. It’s a responsibility he relished, too, with his performances in silencing Erling Haaland during Los Blancos’ Champions League win over Manchester City typical of what the ex-Chelsea man delivered in 2023-24.

Rudiger ended the season with a domestic and European double to his name, and he is proving to be just as important to Germany this summer as Julian Nagelsmann’s side eye Euros glory on home soil.

9Phil Foden (Manchester City) ⬇️
In 2023-24: 28 goals, 12 assists. Won Premier League, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.

As Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland missed chunks of the season through injury, Foden stepped up in spectacular fashion for City and enjoyed the best campaign of his already illustrious career to date.

He scored two Premier League hat-tricks after the turn of the year, as well as a stunning brace on the final day to seal a fourth-successive domestic title for Pep Guardiola’s side, though his superb strike at Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid ended up counting for nothing as City crashed out of the Champions League on penalties in the quarter-finals.

The newly-crowned Premier League Player of the Year hasn’t quite carried that form into Euro 2024, however, with Foden’s struggles to make an impact for England continuing in Germany this summer.

8Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich) ⬆️
In 2023-24: 16 goals, 10 assists.

Perhaps the best player at Euro 2024 thus far, Musiala has recovered from a middling season at Bayern Munich that ended with the Bavarians going trophy-less to provide a spark for hosts Germany.

The former Chelsea academy star has scored in three of his country’s first four matches this summer, while his dribbling has thrilled supporters around the continent. The big tournaments are likely to have a major say in Ballon d’Or voting, and thus Musiala has a chance to vault himself into real contention.

7Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen) ⬇️
In 2023-24: 20 goals, 21 assists. Won Bundesliga & DFB-Pokal.

Bayer Leverkusen’s 52-match unbeaten domestic run underpinned what was a truly remarkable season that saw Xabi Alonso’s side celebrate the club’s first-ever Bundesliga title with an invincible campaign before backing that up with a DFB-Pokal triumph. They did, however, miss out on the Europa League after losing out to Atalanta in the final.

Despite that, Ballon d’Or voters will be keen to reward Alonso’s most important players, and few – if any – had better campaigns than Wirtz, whose hat-trick against Werder Bremen in April put the seal on their title win.

The playmaker’s form since recovering from a serious knee injury has been superb, and is likely to earn him a £100-million-plus move over the next 12 months or so. For now, he scored the opening goal of Euro 2024 for hosts Germany, though he was left out of the line up for the last-16 win over Denmark.

6Harry Kane (Bayern Munich) ↔️
In 2023-24: 51 goals, 14 assists.

Kane’s move to Bayern was meant to put him in a spot where he could finally end the wait for a first trophy of his career, but the Bavarians finished the season without any silverware after surrendering the Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen and losing out to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.

Kane did score at a record-breaking rate and averaged more than a goal a game in the league for the deposed champions. However, those exertions look to have taken a lot out of the England captain, and he has looked laboured during the early rounds of Euro 2024 despite scoring twice in four games.

5Rodri (Manchester City) ⬆️
In 2023-24: 12 goals, 15 assists. Won Premier League, Club World Cup & UEFA Super Cup.

Until the FA Cup final, it had been over a year since Rodri last tasted defeat inside 90 minutes for Man City, and little illustrated his importance to the team more than the fact that they lost each of the first three Premier League games that he missed in 2023-24.

He remains the best defensive midfielder in the world right now, and the fact that the Spain international has also developed a habit of popping up with crucial goals and assists – including the strike which sealed the Premier League title for City – means he is catching the eyes of even more fans, and Ballon d’Or voters.

He is also proving to be a key figure for a talented Spain team at Euro 2024 this summer, with his goal against Georgia in the last 16 the latest in his ever-growing list of game-changing strikes.

4Kylian Mbappe (Real Madrid) ↔️
In 2023-24: 52 goals, 20 assists. Won Ligue 1, Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.

The saga is over, as we now know that this was Mbappe’s final Ballon d’Or campaign as a Paris Saint-Germain player, with his protracted move to Real Madrid having now been made official. Mbappe’s goals sealed a third-successive Ligue 1 title for the Parisians, but the forward’s dream of bringing European success to Parc des Princes was ended with defeat in the Champions League semi-finals to Borussia Dortmund.

France’s early performances at Euro 2024 suggest further disappointment could await Mbappe, with the now masked forward needing to be at his best for what looks likely to be a gauntlet through the knockout stages for the two-time winners.

3Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) ↔️
In 2023-24: One goal, 12 assists. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

At 34, Kroos rolled back the years for Real Madrid in what turned out to be his last-ever campaign following his shock decision to retire. That said, his excellent performances only begun to be spoken about by a wider audience after his masterful showings against Bayern Munich in Madrid’s victorious Champions League semi-final.

He backed that up by providing the assist for Madrid’s opener as they secured European glory to go with their domestic title, while he has also been tempted out of international retirement by Julian Nagelsmann, with the metronomic midfielder putting in superb showings at Euro 2024.

2Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid) ↔️
In 2023-24: 27 goals, 16 assists. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

The best footballer in the world during the first half of the 2023-24 season, Bellingham took to his new surroundings at Real Madrid like no signing since Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only did he score frequently, but he also netted hugely important goals, too.

The hype around him was tempered somewhat in early 2024, in part due to him missing games through injury and suspension, but he reignited his Golden Ball bid with a tireless performance to help knock Manchester City out of the Champions League before netting his second stoppage-time winner in El Clasico of the season.

He has since scored two crucial goals for England at Euro 2024, including his last-gasp overhead-kick against Slovakia to keep the Three Lions’ tournament alive in the last 16, and so despite their slow start in Germany, if the midfielder can replicate his club form over the remainder of the tournament, Gareth Southgate’s side should still be regarded as being among the favourites.

1Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid) ↔️
In 2023-24: 26 goals, 12 assists. Won Champions League, La Liga & Supercopa de Espana.

Injury meant that Vinicius did not got off to the fast start many might have expected when Karim Benzema left Real Madrid, but after finally shaking off his fitness issues, the winger was back to his best – and them some.

He netted a hat-trick to help beat Barcelona in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, while he was in fine goal-scoring form in La Liga as Carlo Ancelotti’s side secured the title at home. Perhaps most notably, though, he was the outstanding player in both legs of Madrid’s Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich, and he went on to light up Wembley in the final by scoring the second goal in the win over Borussia Dortmund.

He did get off to a slow start at Copa America, however, as Brazil drew their opening game with Costa Rica 0-0. However, they bounced back with a 4-1 win over Paraguay in which Vinicius scored twice as he looks to fill the gap left by the injured Neymar.

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