Ballon d’Or 2023
The last 2 months have given us time to reflect on improving old processes but with football beginning to return we wanted to shift our attention to the future. Specifically, we wanted to look at the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual award a player can win, and ask ourselves, what could it look like in 3 years time, and what lessons can we learn about predicting the career arcs of players?
To try and build the most accurate predictions we looked at historical data of previous final shortlists. Several factors play a critical role, some of which are more obvious than others, like a player’s performance level, team quality as well as goal scoring rate, since attacking players tend to make the final list more often than others.
Predictions among all players
Our predictions suggest there will be a partial change of the old guard. World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappé, is our predicted Ballon d’Or winner in 2023 with a 10.5% probability, facing the most competition from a 35-year-old Lionel Messi, who came in second with a 9.7% probability. Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance levels were projected to have dipped quite a bit, the would-be 38-year-old came in 34th position.
The competition might not be as close as some may hope with roughly a 4% probability gap between Messi (2nd) and Sterling (3rd). If we want excitement and unpredictability, perhaps we should all start focusing our attention on the 3rd player to reach the final podium as we’re likely to see more variation here; 3rd and 10th were only split by 1.8%.
What about u23 players today?
Only two u23 players today, Mbappé and Sancho made the overall final 10 shortlist, although one was the actual winner. Four of the final ten (u23) are current Premier League players, Alexander-Arnold, Rodri, Gabriel Jesus and Marcus Rashford but only Gabriel Barbosa is currently playing in a non-top 5 league, Brazilian first division.
If we are to ever see a repeat of a defender winning the award, Alexander-Arnold seems to offer the best hope we have with a 6.9% probability. The Liverpool right-back has 25 assists in an incredible 84 league appearances for Liverpool and has redefined one of the least exciting positions in football. The underlying news in this group of players is that instead of a duopoly, we may begin to see an era of complete dominance by one player, with the gap between Mbappé and second place Sancho being more than 11%.
As football begins its journey into an unprecedented future, at least in the short run, predicting future performance could be integral in our pursuit of identifying talent early. At 21st Club, we believe it’s critical to understand risk but just as important to measure it. Perhaps now more than ever, these two assets could be the most valuable in football.