World Cup 2022 tips: Lionel Messi, Vinicius Junior and Phil Foden in Golden Ball running

We take a look at the players in the running to win the Golden Ball award at the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Lionel Messi, Vinicius Junior and England star Phil Foden catching the eye.

The player of the tournament, or World Cup Golden Ball to give it its proper name, is always an interesting betting heat.

It's basically a FIFA popularity contest among the world's elite - and 2022 Qatar seems like being no different.

The award is for the tournament's outstanding player. FIFA's technical committee compiles a shortlist and that is then voted on by the media to get a winner.

The award was only introduced in 1982 and a quick look at the past winners gives you an idea of the kind of profile you need to be successful in the eyes of FIFA and the world's hacks.

Of the previous 10 awards, only once has it been won by a non-attacking player. Germany's Oliver Kahn bucked that trend in 2002, when he helped the Germans to a third-placed finish.

Of the rest, only Italy's Salvatore Schillaci and Uruguay's Diego Forlan were not established on the world stage when winning the gong.

Paolo Rossi, Diego Maradona, Romario, Brazil's Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane and Luka Modric have all won the prestigious award and are and were already mega stars.

It's an award that does not often land outside the box and from that standpoint it should see one of the stars, fancied in the betting, take the plaudits.

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Messi are the top three in the betting with Kevin de Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Harry Kane, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Jesus, Cristiano Ronaldo and Phil Foden making up the top 10.

The profile of a winner generally looks like a big name, who is an attacker, who usually gets to the final.

Of the winners only Rossi, Romario and Maradona actually won the tournament along with the Golden Ball.

In fact, in four of the last six World Cups, the winner was a losing finalist, including Modric and Messi in the last two tournaments.

Looking at this tournament, it's worth trying to rule out those in the top 10.

The first of which is Ronaldo, who at 37 looks a long way past his best. He may well have an axe to grind with Erik ten Hag, but even with something to prove a big performance in the Middle East looks beyond him.

A punt on Phil Foden (40/1) might be seen as patriotic, but he does represent decent value. The Man City star is undoubtedly a world-class talent, but his goal output is a big concern.

England's Phil Foden

However, his flamboyant style of play could easily catch the eye of FIFA's committee and if he can up his ratio of goal contributions (10 in 14 PL games) in Qatar he could be a contender.

Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus is also in the top 10 contenders for the bookies, but he may not be a starter for Brazil. He was axed from the squad recently, but he made Tite's 26 and faces some big rivals.

Vinicius Junior (30/1) is one of those big-name rivals and he looks a big price.

The Real Madrid flyer, who helped Los Blancos win the Champions League, has had a brilliant start to the season with 10 goals and five assists from 21 games.

The speedy winger proved he is a man for the big stage with his winning goal against Liverpool in Paris and he could be primed for a huge tournament.

Vinicius Junior of Brazil

Neymar is another Brazilian on the shortlist and his numbers this season have been impressive.

Fifteen goals and 12 assists from 20 games for PSG has seen the French side pull five points clear in Ligue 1. He is a live contender with Brazil looking like semi-finalists at the very least.

Harry Kane won the Golden Boot in 2018 and he may be a better bet to repeat the feat this time around, rather than the Golden Ball.

He's certainly not the type of attacker who will wow the judges, although his numbers recently have been excellent.

He's in good scoring form with 15 goal contributions from 22 games for Tottenham.

Benzema is another big name who looks to be coming to the end of his career. He won the Ballon d'Or last season after a brilliant campaign, but injury means he has missed a lot of football for Real Madrid and he is one to avoid.

Belgium's Kevin de Bruyne is one of the world's best midfielders and after Eden Hazard's second place in 2018, he will be looking to go one better.

He has all the tools to win the award, but Belgium may well struggle to get to the quarter-finals with a tough-looking draw.

Argentina's talisman Messi is a general 10/1 shot and he could have one final swansong. At 35, this will be his final World Cup, but he has shown no signs of slowing down with an amazing 26 goal contributions in 19 games for PSG.

Lionel Messi of Argentina

As one of the world's greatest players, he could propel Argentina into the latter stages and it's hard to rule him out.

That leaves his PSG pal Mbappe. He also has staggering stats with 24 goal contributions in 20 games, but unlike Messi the 23-year-old has more to come.

But France's form has been very patchy in the Nations League with just one win from six games against Austria, Denmark and Croatia. They are certainly not playing the free-flowing football you would expect and they may struggle to reach the last four.

Suggested bets

Lionel Messi to win the Golden Ball

Vinicius Junior to win the Golden Ball

Phil Foden to win the Golden Ball

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