The FIFA World Cup brings together the best players from across the globe every four years to complete for the biggest prize in international football. The first edition of the men’s World Cup took place in 1930, but the Golden Ball, the trophy awarded to the best player of the tournament, was not brought into effect until 1982. The first winner was from the winning nation, Italy’s top goal scorer Paolo Rossi.
The award doesn’t always go to a player from the winning team. 10 Golden Balls have been awarded, with just three having played for the tournament winners, the last being Ronaldo for Brazil in 2002. The competitions previous two winners will be present at this year’s tournament; both were beaten finalists. Messi for Argentina in 2014 and Luka Modrić for Croatia in the 2018 World Cup.
Lionel Messi is favourite to win the 2022 edition of the Golden Ball at 8/1. His Argentina team are second favourites to lift the title at 9/2 and if he and they can repeat their Copa América winning form from 2021, when they defeated World Cup favourites Brazil 1-0 at the Maracanã Stadium, there is every chance the mercurial Messi can bow out of the international stage carrying both trophies.
The Frenchman will be looking to put a summer of upheaval at club level behind him and lead the French, alongside Karim Benzema at 16/1, in defence of their World crown. Having won the World Cup and Nations League, scoring in both finals, Mbappé will fancy his chances. His international team-mate, Antoine Griezmann was Man of The Match in the last World Cup final and is a whopping 40/1 to win the Golden Ball.
Neymar is a teammate of Mbappé at PSG and is the leader of a Brazilian side that many favour to sweep all before them. If the Canarinha can justify favouritism at the tournament, he will be in the running to carry away both trophies.
An interesting coincidence from the last three Euros, carrying over to a World Cup, is that a nation to have a player scoring the most goals has gone on to become to win the following global tournament.
David Villa won the Euro Golden Boot in 2008 – Spain won World Cup 2010.
Mario Gómez won the Silver Boot in 2012, tying with Fernando Torres on 3 goals and 1 assist – Germany won World Cup 2014.
Antoine Griezmann won the Golden Boot by 3 goals in 2016. France won World Cup 2018.
Euro 2020 ended with Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Patrik Schick (Czech Republic) tied on 5 goals apiece. However, the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner took the Golden Boot thanks to an assist.
Could Portugal finally lift the global prize and thus give their global star the Golden Ball at 16/1 as an international retirement gift?