They will not give out the Golden Ball award that honors the best player at the World Cup until after all the games at Qatar 2022 have been played.
After all, the most important ones are still to come.
The field of legends, stars and newcomers chasing this award, though, surely recognize they have a target to chase. Because one player has been dominant at the World Cup, and he’ll be someone quarterfinal opponent England will have to handle if they want to advance.
You probably know who we’re referencing, so we’ll just get right to the list below.
Note: Other players considered who ultimately did not make the Top 5 cut included: Bruno Fernandes (Portugal), Antoine Griezmann (France), Pedri (Spain), Alvaro Morata (Spain), Ivan Perisic (Croatia), and Tyler Adams (USA).
5. Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)
With goals in each of his first three World Cup games, Gakpo became the emerging star of this World Cup. And of all the players on this list, Gakpo easily was the least celebrated.
He’s still playing in Holland’s Eredivisie, where he has shot to stardom with nine goals and 12 assists in 14 games, after almost moving to Manchester United in the summer.
4. Richarlison (Brazil)
Richarlison scored twice against Serbia in Brazil’s opening game, and then dominated the box against Korea. There might be a connection there; Neymar played in the opening game before injuring his ankle, then returned for the Round of 16 game. Perhaps his presence opens up the attack for Richarlison to deliver in front of goal.
3. Jude Bellingham (England)
Bellingham, 19, scored England’s first goal of the the tournament, and he created maybe the biggest with a perfect ball through to Jordan Henderson in the Round of 16. It was a pass so perfect that ‘Hendo’ — an excellent player, but not exactly Alan Shearer, witness his three goals in 73 caps — could not help but strike into the net.
2. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
The 35-year-old Messi seems not to create as many significant chances as the version of a decade ago, but he keeps defenses constantly busy. He ranks among the leaders in the World Cup in expected goals, shots and shots on target. And yes, he is No. 1 in chances created, so maybe the standard we mentioned is hard for anyone to meet.
1. Kylian Mbappe (France)
Mbappe is the biggest reason we all should have known that even with the incumbent curse — the past three reigning World Cup champs all failed to get out of their groups in the subsequent cycle — and with so many massive injuries, France still would be a threat to leave Qatar with the winner’s trophy.
The statistical model at FotMob.com rated Mbappe a 9.3 in the Round of 16 victory over Poland, a game in which he put three of his four shots on goal and successfully completed 31 of his 35 passes.
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