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Erling Haaland is a leading contender for the 2023 Ballon d’Or, but even Norway’s national team coach admits Lionel Messi should take the award.

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Manchester City striker Haaland hit 52 goals across all competitions last season as he helped his club employers at the Etihad Stadium to a Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble. Those exploits are considered to have him in the running for a first Ballon d’Or.

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Messi, though, inspired Argentina to World Cup glory at Qatar 2022 – allowing him to complete a record-breaking trophy collection. The 36-year-old South American has also been starring for Inter Miami since moving to the United States, putting him in the frame to land an eighth Ballon d’Or.

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Norway boss Stale Solbakken would be expected to side with Haaland in any debate regarding the best player on the planet, given that he works with the prolific 23-year-old at international level, but he has told VG when asked for his pick: “If you ask me who I think will win, I will say Messi will win it thanks to his World Cup triumph. It still has an impact.”

Haaland is not paying too much attention to the race for prestigious individual accolades and has told France Football when asked if he is capable of pipping Messi to a major honour: “It’s a trick question. I’m definitely up there. Am I the best? Maybe. I know I can still improve a great deal. I’m still young. But yes, I believe I have a chance this year.”

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