The two greatest individual prizes in football, the World Cup Golden Ball and the Ballon d’Or could both be scooped by Croatian star Luka Modric or France’s teenage star Kylian Mbappe following Sunday’s World Cup final in Russia – the first time the prizes would be held by the same person since 1982.
Both Modric and Mbappe have been sensations throughout the tournament and integral to their team’s success in reaching the final, with leading online betting site Unibet putting both at 2/1 or better for winning the prize. Mbappe is currently the slight favourite, but all could change after their performances and who lifts the trophy in Moscow.
One might think that impressing on football’s biggest stage would also be a positive signal to win the Ballon d’Or, formerly called the European Player of the Year Award until it was expanded to be a truly global prize in 2006, and yet the only person to have claimed both accolades in the same year was Paolo Rossi.
The former Juventus forward was not match fit coming off a two-year ban when he became the surprise star of Enzo Bearzot’s Azzurri squad in 1982, and yet managed to not only win the dual prizes of the Golden Ball and the Ballon d’Or, but made it a triple with the Golden Boot by blasting the ball into Spain’s net six times to win Italy a third World Cup title.
Unless the final this year is a similar spectacle of goals, it is unlikely either Modric or Mbappe could steal the Golden Boot from Harry Kane, who scored six goals in England’s run to the semi-finals, but the double remains up for grabs. However, this is only the case is France Football, the body that awards the Ballon d’Or, finally decides to give the award to someone other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, who have shared the award every year since 2007.
Ronaldo remains odds-on favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year, despite Portugal’s disappointing performances in the World Cup, but as Croatia has struggled its way to the final, Modric and Mbappe have been moving up the rankings table, with the bookies putting each at second and third favourites to scoop the prize – it all could be down to the performances and result on Sunday.