The most interesting facts of Ballon d‘or winners throughout history

The Ballon d’Or is the biggest award that a soccer player can receive, it is delivered once a year by the FIFA with judges of the French magazine “France Football” in the most important awards ceremony for soccer players.

This prize awards the best player of the season taking as reference his work throughout the same and his contribution to his team. 

The Ballon d’Or was delivered in 1956 and since then it has continued to be delivered uninterruptedly until today. For 62 years this award was presented by France Football magazine until 2010 where it merged with FIFA to deliver this award jointly.

This award marked football forever as it brings together all the soccer stars in the same room to define who was the best player of the season being chosen by a group of judges appointed for this important task.

Many players have won this award and some have even been awarded more than once due to their excellent performance as stars of this sport. The football players who received this award were remembered forever by fans as the best footballers in history.


The first Ballon d’Or

The delivery of the first Ballon d’Or was in 1956 where France Football magazine decided to start awarding the best player of the season.

During the years 1956 and 2007 this prize was only given to European players playing abroad which were totally controversial for many years because it left important American players like Maradona, Pele or Kempes out of the roster.

Until its globalization in 2007, American players couldn’t win this award, is only given to European soccer players playing abroad.

The first winner of the golden ball was Stanley Matthews in 1956 and with 41 years due to his excellent performance as extreme left. Matthews was considered the best player of the twentieth century and was characterized as a fast player with mastery of the ball.


The first non-European winner

The first non-European winner in the history of the Ballon d’Or was the Liberian George Weah in 1995 when he was playing for Milan.

In the first year where the organizers allowed to choose a non-European player as the winner of the award, Weah won it with 144 points in favor, followed by Klinsmann with 108.

The most important Ballon d’Or winners

During the following years, many players were awarded the golden ball to get it more than once. In the current ranking there are 5 players who stand out for having won the golden ball more times than the others:

  1. Lionel Messi

The Argentine soccer player works as a striker and won the golden ball 5 times, always playing for FC Barcelona where he formed his entire career as a professional. For years Messi was considered one of the best players of the current century due to his speed to generate chances in an attack which led him to obtain this distinction 5 times during the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portuguese Ronaldo had a successful career in which he was awarded 5 times, like Messi, with the Ballon d’Or. He serves as a center forward and left-winger is characterized by having an excellent shot at the goal. His large number of trophies won as a player, led him to win 5 gold balls in the years 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 marking the last 5 years as the best moment in his career.

  1. Marco Van Basten

The Dutchman retired a long time ago, continues to integrate the ranking due to the great brand he produced in football worldwide. His great performance in the field gave him the luxury of receiving 3 gold balls in the years 1988, 1989 and 1992.

  1. Johan Cruyff

Another great Dutch legend that was awarded 3 times with this award was the great Cruyff who left a mark in the hearts of football fans due to his unique ability at the time of mastering the ball that left him this award in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

  1. Michel Platini

The Frenchman was considered one of the best players in the 80s, where he demonstrated his full potential as a footballer and received, consecutively, his three golden balls in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

By team, an important difference is also made between countries, demonstrating who has the most accumulated gold balls among their players, ranking as follows:

  • Argentina: It has 8 gold balls in its account becoming the country with the most gold balls in the world. This amount was achieved with the 5 gold balls that Messi won, 2 won by Alfredo Di Stefano and 1 from Omar Sivori


  • Portugal: It ranks second in the ranking with 7 gold balls obtained by Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Luis Figo (1) and Eusebio (1)


  • Germany: This country has 7 gold balls, as well as Portugal and the Netherlands, achieving this number thanks to Beckenbauer (2), Rummenigge (2), Muller (1), Matthaus (1) and Sammer (1).


Other large countries such as the Netherlands (7 gold balls), France (6 gold balls) and Brazil (5) also have several winners within their nations, but, within so many Europeans, the one that stands out in the number of ballon d‘or won in Argentina who won 8 gold balls despite being a South American team.

In recent years there was a strong competition between Messi and Ronaldo that divided the delivery of the gold ball and left them both as the only candidates to win it, generating that their respective countries increase the amount of gold balls achieved in recent times.


The historic winners of Ballon d’Or

Throughout history, this ceremony left us with many winners of the golden ball that are still remembered for the great contribution they made to this sport.

Since 1956 this award has been given to more than 60 players forming a long list of important winners:

year player Nationality club
2018 Luka Modric Croatia Real Madrid
2017 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Real Madrid
2016 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Real Madrid
2015 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona
2014 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Real Madrid
2013 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Real Madrid
2012 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona
2011 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona
2010 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona
2009 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Manchester United
2007 Kaká Brazil Milan
2006 Fabio Cannavaro Italy Real Madrid
2005 Ronaldinho Brazil Barcelona
2004 Andriy Shevchenko Ukrain Milan
2003 Pavel Nedvěd Czech Republic Juventus
2002 Ronaldo Brazil Real Madrid
2001 Michael Owen England Liverpool
2000 Luís Figo Portugal Real Madrid
1999 Rivaldo Brazil Barcelona
1998 Zinedine Zidane France Juventus
1997 Ronaldo Brazil Internazionale
1996 Matthias Sammer Germany Borussia Dortmund
1995 George Weah Liberia Milan
1994 Hristo Stoichkov Bulgaria Barcelona
1993 Roberto Baggio Italy Juventus
1992 Marco van Basten Netherlands Milan
1991 Jean-Pierre Papin France Marseille
1990 Lothar Matthäus Germany Internazionale
1989 Marco van Basten Netherlands Milan
1988 Marco van Basten Netherlands Milan
1987 Ruud Gullit Netherlands Milan
1986 Igor Belanov Soviet Union Dynamo Kyiv
1985 Michel Platini France Juventus
1984 Michel Platini France Juventus
1983 Michel Platini France Juventus
1982 Paolo Rossi Italy Juventus
1981 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge West Germany Bayern Munich
1980 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge West Germany Bayern Munich
1979 Kevin Keegan England Hamburg
1978 Kevin Keegan England Hamburg
1977 Allan Simonsen Denmark Borussia M”nchengladbach
1976 Franz Beckenbauer West Germany Bayern Munich
1975 Oleg Blokhin Soviet Union Dynamo Kyiv
1974 Johan Cruyff Netherlands Barcelona
1973 Johan Cruyff Netherlands Barcelona
1972 Franz Beckenbauer West Germany Bayern Munich
1971 Johan Cruyff Netherlands Ajax
1970 Gerd Müller West Germany Bayern Munich
1969 Gianni Rivera Italy Milan
1968 George Best Northern Ireland Manchester United
1967 Flórián Albert Hungary Ferencv rosi TC
1966 Bobby Charlton England Manchester United
1965 Eusébio Portugal Benfica
1964 Denis Law Scotland Manchester United
1963 Lev Yashin Soviet Union Dynamo Moscow
1962 Josef Masopust Czechoslovakia Dukla Prague
1961 Omar Sívori Italy Juventus
1960 Luis Suárez Spain Barcelona
1959 Alfredo Di Stéfano Spain Real Madrid
1958 Raymond Kopa France Real Madrid
1957 Alfredo Di Stéfano Spain Real Madrid
1956 Stanley Matthews England Blackpool

The most controversial Ballon d’or winners

Over the years there was a lot of controversy around some ballon d‘or winners because the favorite to win it was another player. These cases were several in history and left football fans shocked by the decision of the judges.

Some of the most remembered examples over the years are the following:

  1. Lev Yashin (1963)

This Soviet footballer was the only goalkeeper in history to win the golden ball in a highly questioned ceremony. The favorite candidate was Gianni Rivera who had won the intercontinental cup with Milan, but the prize was given to the Soviet goalkeeper in a year in which he did not participate with his team and his team was out in the European Cup.

  1. Josef Masopust (1962)

Although his goal gave Czechoslovakia the World Cup in Chile, many were waiting for the Portuguese Eusebio as the winner of this award. The award of the Czechoslovak midfielder left more than one disappointed as they saw no merit to win this prize.

  1. Florian Albert (1967)

One of the biggest surprises in the history of the Ballon d’Or was the Hungarian striker Albert who won the award having won only the league in his country. The controversy surrounding him being chosen as the best player in Europe was great since everyone expected Bobby Charlton as the winner who was the best player of the moment and had made much greater merit to win the prize.

  1. Alan Simonsen (1977)

During a season in which he lost the final of the European Cup, this player was awarded the Ballon d’Or for no reason. The favorite to the prize was clearly Kevin Keegan, but the jury decided to give the prize to Simonsen who had a painful performance.

  1. Igor Belanov (1986)

In the year where Maradona had won the World Cup and Butragueño the Spanish league and the UEFA Cup, the golden ball was handed over to the Soviet Belanov. The anger of the fans was very great since there were many players who deserved the prize and Igor’s merit had been insufficient to be the winner of the prize.

  1. Michael Owen (2001)

Although Owen had won the UEFA Cup as a fundamental part of the team, the 21-year-old was not the candidate to win the Ballon d’Or since everyone expected the winner to be Raul who came on a very good football streak and everyone thought that this would be his year. Although Owen’s appointment caused controversy, many were happy for the young man who would become, after a while, a football legend.

  1. Andy Shevchenko (2004)

Another of the biggest controversies of this prize was the 2004 delivery, where the Ukrainian received the golden ball in a season where he only won Series A with his team. In this year everyone expected to see Deco winner who had won the Portuguese league and Super Cup, as well as the Champions League and the Intercontinental with Porto.

  1. Fabio Cannavaro (2006)

During this season the Italian received this award in the year he won the world cup. However, many believed that this award was not deserved for the Italian and demanded that the prize be for Henry.

  1. Lionel Messi (2010)

One of the most controversial ballon d’Or in history was that of the Argentine in a year where he had not made any merit to win this prize. The entire audience expected the prize to be given to a Spaniard since Spain had won the 2010 World Cup and looked like a candidate for Iniesta, but the golden ball was handed to Messi who received it with surprise and some guilt.

  1. Luka Modric (2018)

In an extremely controversial vote where a Frenchman was expected to take the prize, FIFA decided to give it to the Croatian midfielder who was runner-up with his world cup country. In a regular year of the Croatian, the delivery of this award generated a stir because it was outlined as a winner to Griezmann or Mbappe.


These are some of the players who were surrounded by controversy in the delivery of the golden ball due to the strong criticism they received from the press and the public who questioned their actions throughout the season.

favorites to win of upcoming 2019 Ballon d’Or

The delivery of this new ballon d’Or will be at the end of this year and many are the candidates to win the award, although some players have more possibility due to the great performance in this year.

Looking ahead to the next installment of the ballon d’Or the candidates that we think to make up the top 5 to win it are:

  • Van Dijk: The expectation is very big since many see Liverpool’s defender Van Dijk as the next Ballon d’Or winner after his excellent season where he managed to win the UEFA Champions League with his team being a key part of the same. His contribution to his team has been fundamental since as a defense he doesn’t allow the strikers to finish off the goal allowing Liverpool to win a large number of matches.
  • Mohamed Salah: who plays, also with Van Dijk, in Liverpool.  This forward can also keep the award as he was one of the goal authors in the UEFA Champions League final. His contribution to the team leads him to win the Champions League thanks to his great ability as a forward. Salah has managed to form an average of 0.8 goals per game demonstrating his great contribution to his team.
  • Lionel Messi: The Argentine has won the Spanish league and is always a strong candidate to win the ballon d’or due to his popularity among fans of this sport. Messi won the League of Spain fulfilling a fundamental role in his team and it is that throughout the year he managed to score 51 goals so far.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo: Although this was not his best year, the Italian striker always gives reasons to be the winner of this award. His excellent playing ability makes him one of the best players today and deserving of this award. Cristiano Juventus’ season was excellent as he has scored 46 goals in the Italian team so far becoming the undisputed leader of the team.
  • Killian Mbappe: The Frenchman was one of the candidates to win this award last year and this year is presented again as a possibility due to his great present at Paris Saint Germain. This player is the most important of his team since he is the one in charge of carrying out the offensive game and performs it in an excellent way becoming a clear candidate to win this award.

Hopefully this year the judges will wisely decide which player deserves the golden ball and have a clean vote without controversy that hinders the most important awards ceremony in football.


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