Ballon d'Or
2022 Ballon d'Or Reuters / BENOIT TESSIER

On Wednesday, France Football magazine released the 30-player list of nominees for the 2023 Ballon d'Or award. Seven-time winner Lionel Messi makes a stunning comeback on the list this year, and is one of the favourites to win despite being absent last year. Meanwhile, he will be facing tough competition from Manchester City striker Erling Haaland, who led the team to a treble in 2022-23.

What a difference a year makes for Messi

In 2021-22, Messi endured a somewhat miserable season after having been forced to leave FC Barcelona due to the club's inability to offer him a contract extension. He made the move to join Paris Saint-Germain amid much hype, but his first season with the club did not yield much to write home about.

He spent some time in the sidelines due to injury, and was not able to make as big of an impact with the French giants as expected. As a result, he was omitted from the Ballon d'Or shortlist in 2022, which was eventually won by Karim Benzema.

Fast forward to 2023, and although PSG won Ligue 1, Messi's performance at the club level was still largely underwhelming. However, his exploits with the national team are entirely a different story.

Lionel Messi Inter Miami press conference
Lionel Messi says he has rediscovered happiness since joining Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP News

He led Argentina to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in December, just over a year after he also led his team to victory at the Copa America in 2021. The World Cup trophy was the only major trophy missing in Messi's cabinet, and the victory on his fifth and probably final attempt was a story meant for both the history books and fairytales.

As a result, the Argentine now finds himself in the running for a record eighth Ballon d'Or trophy. If he wins, he will open the gap even further to Cristiano Ronaldo, who currently holds five trophies. The Portuguese star made waves earlier this year when he transformed the face of international football by joining Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr. This summer proved how much him move influenced other players and clubs, but he was left out of the shortlist.

With Messi having won the Best FIFA Men's Player award back in February, he is definitely one of the top contenders for the Ballon d'Or. He has since left Paris to join Major League Soccer (MLS) side Inter Miami, and his season there has been phenomenal so far, but the Ballon d'Or only looks at the entirety of the previous full campaign.

The pretender to the throne has arrived

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland was also nominated and is being seen as the man who could challenge Messi for the award. On the club level, he helped Pep Guardiola's side win the Premier League title, the FA Cup, as well as their first UEFA Champions League trophy.

In the 2022-23 season, the Norwegian striker scored 52 goals in 53 games in all competitions. His performance has earned him a host of individual awards including the PFA Player of the Year, Premier League's Player of the Season, and Football Writers' Association's Men's Player of the Year.

In his first season in England since joining Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund, Haaland broke the Premier League's single-season scoring record with 36 goals.

Manchester City and Argentina lead the nominations

Due to the same reasons stated above, Manchester City and the Argentina national football team produced the most nominations. Treble winners Man City had seven players on the list, including Haaland.

Messi was joined by three of his Argentina teammates. Last year's winner, Karim Benzema, is also nominated.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Oct. 30.

Full list of men's Ballon d'Or nominees:
André Onana - Manchester United/Cameroon
Josko Gvardiol - Manchester City/Croatia
Karim Benzema - Al Ittihad
Jamal Musiala - Bayern Munich/Germany
Mohamed Salah - Liverpool/Egypt
Jude Bellingham - Real Madrid/England
Bukayo Saka - Arsenal/England
Randal Kolo Muani - Paris Saint-Germain/France
Kevin De Bruyne - Manchester City/Belgium
Bernardo Silva - Manchester City/Portugal
Emiliano Martínez - Aston Villa/Argentina
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia - Napoli/Georgia
Rúben Dias - Manchester City/Portugal
Nicolo Barella - Inter Milan/Italy
Erling Haaland - Manchester City/Norway
Yassine Bounou - Al Hilal/Morocco
Martin Ødegaard - Arsenal/Norway
Julián Álvarez - Manchester City/Argentina
Ilkay Gündogan - Barcelona/Germany
Vinícius Júnior - Real Madrid/Brazil
Lionel Messi - Inter Miami/Argentina
Rodri - Manchester City/Spain
Lautaro Martínez - Inter Milan/Argentina
Antoine Griezmann - Atletico Madrid/France
Robert Lewandowski - Barcelona/Poland
Kylian Mbappé - Paris Saint-Germain/France
Kim Min-jae - Napoli/South Korea
Victor Osimhen - Napoli/Nigeria
Luka Modric - Real Madrid/Croatia
Harry Kane - Bayern Munich/England