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GOAL50 2023: Lionel Messi beats Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham to men’s award as Racheal Kundananji crowned women’s winner after global fan vote

19 Dec 2023 20:00+07:0040

L. MessiR. KundananjiE. HålandJ. BellinghamK. MbappéInter MiamiManchester CityPSGReal MadridLiverpoolBayern MünchenK. De BruyneH. KaneMohamed SalahVinícius JúniorL. ModrićBernardo SilvaAitana BonmatiA. OshoalaL. AlegriaT. ChawingaK. ShawL. JamesS. KerrFEATURESGOAL50

Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi and Madrid CFF striker Racheal Kundananji have been crowned winners of the 2023 GOAL50 awards, coming out on top after a series of head-to-head battles voted on by fans across the globe.

Messi finished ahead of Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, Kylian Mbappe and Kevin De Bruyne, while Asisat Oshoala, Linda Caicedo, Tabitha Chawinga and Lauren James made up the top five in the women’s category behind Kundananji.

It was no surprise to see Messi dominate his head-to-heads after another stellar year, while Kundananji was recognised by voters for her outstanding debut season at Madrid CFF and historic contribution to the Zambia national team. Find out more about this year’s winners below…

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Messi entered 2023 as a World Cup winner after inspiring Argentina’s run to glory in Qatar last December, and added a second Ligue 1 title to his trophy cabinet after returning to Paris Saint-Germain. The diminutive magician recorded 21 goals and 20 assists in all competitions across his final season at Parc des Princes, and took the decision to embark on a new adventure in MLS upon the expiration of his contract in June.

Inter Miami snapped Messi up on an initial two-year contract and he made an instant impact at DRV PNK Stadium, scoring 14 goals in his first 11 appearances while helping the club to their first piece of silverware in the form of the inaugural Leagues Cup.

Messi also helped Argentina make a strong start to their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign with five wins from six games, and scooped a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or as a reward for his stunning exploits for club and country.

The 36-year-old now has an unrivalled seven GOAL50 triumphs to his name, two more than his eternal Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the final cut for the first time.

Click here to read the full 50-1 GOAL50 countdown…



Zambian forward Kundananji secured a dream move to Madrid CFF in August 2022, and repaid the club’s faith with a stunning debut campaign. Madrid could only finish fifth in Liga F, but Kundananji scored 25 goals in 29 appearances to finish as runner up in the Golden Boot race.

Two of those efforts came in a upset victory over eventual champions Barcelona, which solidified her status as one of the best young players in the game. Kundananji’s impressive performances earned her a spot in Zambia’s World Cup squad, and she managed to open her scoring account at the tournament in 3-1 group stage win over Costa Rica.

Zambia didn’t make it through to the knockout stage, but the 23-year-old went on to notch her first hat-trick at international level in a friendly win over Morocco in September, before repeating the trick in Madrid’s 5-1 victory over Sevilla.

Kundananji has added four more goals to her 2023-24 club total since then, and if she continues on her current trajectory, her GOAL50 nod could be be the first of many.

Click here to read the full 50-1 GOAL50 countdown…



GOAL50 is an annual award ranking the 50 best footballers in the world over the previous 12 months.

Up until 2021, the final winners were decided by a panel of experts across GOAL’s 42 editions. However, a format change in 2022 gave fans the power to decide who finishes top of the pile as randomly selected head-to-heads were presented to the general voter.

Two shortlists of the 50 best male and female players in the world were compiled based on their performance at both club and international level, which readers were able to access via the GOAL website and apps to place their votes.

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Ronaldo won the first GOAL50 award back in 2008 when he was still on the books at Manchester United, with Messi getting the nod the following year. Inter Milan icon Wesley Snejider won in 2010, but no one else got a look-in over the next seven years as Ronaldo picked up another four titles at Real Madrid to Messi’s three at Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s Luka Modric topped the list in 2018, with Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk following suit 12 months later, and Robert Lewandowski scooped the 2020 prize after a superb year at Bayern Munich. Messi returned to centre stage by winning the next three awards, and will hope to add another to his pot in 2024.

Megan Rapinoe became the first women’s winner in 2019, with Pernille Harder emulating the USMNT legend a year later before back-to-back wins for Barcelona talisman Alexia Putellas.