2024 is set to be yet another exciting year in the football calendar. While Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or reign is set to come to an end, teams will have a chance to etch their names in the annals of history with the European Championships, AFC Asian Cup and the Olympics set to take place in 2024.
END ON MESSI’S BALLON D’OR REIGN
Argentina captain Lionel Messi ended his story in European football in 2023 by making a move to MLS side Inter Miami. However, the 36-year-old was rewarded for his FIFA World Cup heroics in Qatar at the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony, as he claimed the award for a record-extending eighth time in his career.
Messi had a season to remember, getting his hands on the coveted FIFA World Cup trophy, while scoring 32 goals and provided 25 assists in 55 matches across all competitions. He also helped PSG lift the Ligue 1 title in the 2023/23 season, while guiding Inter Miami to the Leagues Cup triumph.
However, 2024 will provide a chance for the next generation to take over from the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo era. Since 2008, the two footballers have dominated the Ballon D’or, winning the award 13 times in the last 15 years. Only Luka Modric and Karim Benzema have won the award during a period where Ronaldo won it five times while Messi reigned supreme eight times.
With both Messi and Ronaldo plying their trade out of Europe, this opens the door for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe and Manchester City striker Erling Haaland to get their hands on the prestigious trophy for the very first time.
Mbappe has already scored 18 goals in 16 matches this season while the Norwegian striker has found the back of the net on 14 occasions for City.
Both stars like Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham will also be in with a shout for the 2024 Ballon d’Or having taken to life in Spain like fish to water. The English midfielder has already notched up 17 goals and five assists in his first 21 games for the club.
SPOTLIGHT ON INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENTS
2024 will also see a host of important international tournaments being played. The year will begin with the group-stage of the AFC Asian Cup, with India grouped alongside Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in Group B.
India will face Australia in their opening match of the tournament on January 13 at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Qatar. After facing Australia, India will take on Uzbekistan on January 18 before facing Syria in their final group match on January 23.
Sunil Chhetri will lead India’s 24-member squad in the 2024 AFC Asian Cup. India’s best finish in the tournament came way back in 1964, when they finished as runners-up.
Meanwhile, the Africa Cup of Nations will also begin on January 11 and go on till February 13. The tournament will be held in Ivory Coast.
The focus will shift to the European Championships in the summer, with the tournament being held in Germany from June 14 to July 14. Italy will enter the competition as defending champions, having defeated England in the final in 2021.
This will be followed by the Olympics, which will run from July 26 to August 11 and could feature big name players seeking a final hurrah with their international sides.
All in all, apart from the regular club football, international competitions will take centre-stage in 2024 with several prestigious trophies up for grabs.