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Vinicius, Bellingham, Wirtz: Young Stars Vie for Ballon d’Or Glory!

It remains to be seen which player will win the 2024 Ballon d’Or, but one thing seems increasingly likely: for the first time in 18 years, the winner will not have been born in the 1980s. The past decade has seen Cristiano Ronaldo (‘85) and Lionel Messi (‘87) duke it out for the award, while Karim Benzema (‘87) and Luka Modrić (‘85) have managed to win it once.

The latest Ballon d’Or lines can be found here.

Vinicius, Bellingham, Wirtz: Young Stars Vie for Ballon d’Or Glory!
Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP


Today, however, Ronaldo and Benzema are plying their trade in Saudi Arabia, Messi is in MLS, and Modrić’s glorious time at Real Madrid appears to be reaching a conclusion. The changing of the guard is upon us, and there are plenty of formidable candidates looking to get their hands on the coveted trophy in Paris this year.

Can Anyone Stop Vinícius Júnior?

The odds-on favorite to pick up the Ballon d’Or is Vinícius Júnior (‘00). At 23 years of age, he has emerged as one of the game’s deadliest forwards for Real Madrid, picking up a second league title in three years and leading Los Blancos to the verge of a record 15th UEFA Champions League title.

It remains to be seen whether or not he can lead Real past Borussia Dortmund and prevail with top honors at Wembley, but one thing’s for sure: with Neymar sidelined, he’ll be tasked with spearheading Brazil’s attack in this summer’s Copa América. Depending on whether or not he can lead the Seleção to glory in the United States, he could very well become the fourth Brazilian to win the Ballon d’Or in the 21st century after Ronaldo (2002), Ronaldinho (2005) and Kaká (2007).

When the lights are the brightest, Vinícius comes alive and steps up to the task. This season, he’s racked up 5 goals and 5 assists in 9 Champions League appearances, including a brace vs. Bayern in the semis and a brace of assists vs. Manchester City in the quarterfinals. A sensational dribbler who can conjure up danger at a moment’s notice, he is a multi-faceted threat who continues to deliver and help his team in multiple ways, and he is making a case for himself as the best player in world football.

Jude Bellingham, Another Great Pick

If there is one player who is capable of stopping Vinícius from claiming the award, it’s his Real Madrid teammate Jude Bellingham (‘02). One year after claiming the Bundesliga Player of the Season award at Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham has coped magnificently after making the €103 million move to the Spanish capital and emerged as one of the best footballers in Europe.

After losing top scorer Karim Benzema in the summer, Real declined to spend big on an attacker, instead bringing back Brahim Díaz from his loan, signing veteran striker Joselu on loan, and adding Turkish youngster Arda Güler for €20 million. Despite their lack of investment in attack, and despite losing three key pillars in defense to ACL injuries, Real Madrid has enjoyed a stellar campaign and finds itself within inches of a second league + Champions League double in three years. Bellingham has proven crucial under Carlo Ancelotti, who has unleashed him in an attacking midfield role and given him license to drift into wide areas and crash into the box, and get on the end of crosses.

A cool and composed ball-carrier, Bellingham’s stoic nature extends to his finishing, and it has seen him score two extra-time winners against Barcelona and push to become the first-ever English winner of the Golden Boot award in La Liga. Bellingham (+225) has taken world football by storm, and if he can lead England to their first trophy in 58 years, he could very well overtake Vinícius in the Ballon d’Or race.

Florian Wirtz Leading the Way for Leverkusen

It has been nothing short of a legendary campaign for Bayer Leverkusen. They are yet to lose a single match this season, they have set the record for the longest unbeaten streak in European football (51), they have become the first team since Germany’s reunification to finish a season unbeaten, and they are just two matches away from claiming a treble under Xabi Alonso.

It has been a team effort from start to finish, but one player who has consistently provided a spark is Florian Wirtz. Two years after tearing his ACL, Wirtz has taken his game to another level and racked up 18 goals and 20 assists in 47 appearances for Die Werkself and led them to a first-ever Bundesliga title.

He has ended Leverkusen’s 31-year trophy drought and consistently excelled thanks to his quick thinking, close control, and efficient finishing in front of goal. He’s an outside soccer betting pick to come away with the trophy and become the first German since Matthias Sammer in 1996 to win the Ballon d’Or.


Question of the Day

Will a Real Madrid player win the Ballon d’Or in 2024?

Four Real Madrid players have won the Ballon d’Or this century, and Jude Bellingham or Vinícius Júnior could ensure that we have a fifth in 2024.

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