Ballon d'Or rule change for 2023 could hand Lionel Messi big advantage over Erling Haaland
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A new rule change to the Ballon d'Or voting process appears to have given Lionel Messi an advantage over Erling Haaland ahead of the results being announced.
Messi is widely expected to scoop a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or crown at Monday evening's ceremony, which takes place in Paris.
Having won the World Cup with Argentina last year, the 36-year-old has long been favourite for this year's award.
His exit from PSG and subsequent incredible start at MLS side Inter Miami has done little to dampen those expectations, despite Erling Haaland breaking the Premier League seasonal goal record and winning the Champions League with Manchester City.
But some believe that Messi's move to Inter Miami in July, coupled with lack of football in a top European league since May, should rule him out of contention for the Ballon d'Or - despite his World Cup heroics.
Haaland smashed in 52 goals in all competitions last season - though some of those were before the start of the judging period - and won three trophies with Pep Guardiola's side.
PSG's Kylian Mbappe was not far behind him with 41 goals, and he also netted a hat-trick for France in the World Cup final. This season, Haaland has 13 to his name, with Mbappe on 12.
But a new rule change to the Ballon d'Or - specifically relating to the judging process - means Messi appears to have a better chance of winning the award based upon his feats over the past year.
The judging criteria reads (as per Marca): "Individual performance and the candidate's decisive and impressive character take precedence over the collective aspect and trophies won, as well as the player's class and sense of fair play."
Therefore, Haaland's Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League trophies, and the quality of the City side, may not be enough for him to win the award.
Messi's starring individual role in winning the World Cup, meanwhile - he won the tournament's Golden Ball - could be a big advantage to the Argentinian.
As for 'decisive and impressive character', it can be argued that there is little to split the pair.
Whatever happens, tonight's awards ceremony is likely the last realistic chance Messi has of lifting the Ballon d'Or.
Is winning the World Cup enough for him to deserve it? Let us know in the comments.
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