Top 10 Facts about Ballon d'Or Award
The Ballon d’Or award was formerly based upon the votes of reputed journalists associated with the game, but since 2007, the responsibilities have been extended to national team coaches and captains too. The award is commonly reserved for the best of the best on the football pitch in the previous year.
When the Ballon d’Or was first introduced in 1956, it was originally an award for players from Europe. As a result, many of the stellar names in football, including Diego Maradona and Pele, never won the prestigious prize during their professional career.
This was first changed in 1995 when players of any origin playing in Europe were considered eligible for the award. In 2007, the Ballon d’Or truly achieved global status and all professional footballers around the world were included in their selection criteria.
In 2016, as a part of the celebration of 60 years of the award, France Football carried out a re-evaluation of the Ballon d’Or award for the era where non-European players were not eligible. All 39 Ballon d’Or awards from 1956 to 1994 were considered, and 12 of those were awarded to South American footballers.
1. Votes and Nominations
English players have had a tough time in the Ballon d'Or nominations since 2012. Before Harry Kane's nomination, Jamie Vardy was the only other player to receive a nomination.
Paul Scholes of Manchester United, on the other hand, was a nominee on five occasions, but sadly, never received a single vote.
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid was nominated in 2009 but could not garner a single vote. Moreover, Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan was the second highest placed Ballon d'Or nominee from the Premier League in 2010.
2. Clubs with the most Ballon d'Or winners
Lionel Messi has won a staggering six Ballon d'Ors so far in his career, making it rather easy to understand which club stands at top of the list.
But if it wasn't for Messi, FC Barcelona would still have six Ballon d'Ors in their trophy room. The Catalans have 12 winners in their ranks, with Messi winning six of them.
Luis Suarez was the first in 1960, Johan Cruyff won it twice while Hristo Stoichkov, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho were the other winners. Real Madrid follow FC Barcelona with 11 Ballon d'Or winners, whereas Juventus and AC Milan are joint-third with eight each.
3. Countries with the most Ballon d'Or winners
Despite Brazil, Portugal, and Argentina ruling the rooster in this regard since the turn of the century, interestingly, it is Germany and Netherlands who are the joint leaders with the highest number of Ballon d'Or winners. Both countries have seen their players win it a staggering seven times, apiece.
Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten won it three times for the Dutch whereas Ruud Gullit won it once. For the Germans, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won it twice each, whereas the likes of Gerd Muller, Lothar Matthaus, and Mattias Sammer won it once in their careers.
France follow these two countries with six Ballon d'Or winners - Michel Platini (3), Raymond Kopa, Jean-Pierre Papin, and Zinedine Zidane being the winners whereas Portugal are fourth in the list with three different Ballon d'Or winners in the form of Eusebio, Luis Figo, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
4. First non-European Winner
In 1995, France Football changed the rules and allowed players who didn't represent a European country at the international level to come into contention.
The first non-European winner with George Weah claiming the award after a sensational season with Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.
Until 1995, France Football adjudged winners only from the pool of players from European countries. 1995 saw the rule being changed for good and in that year itself, the world saw its first and only African to win the Ballon d'Or.
5. A tough task for defenders and goalkeepers
In the 61 years of the Ballon d'Or, only one goalkeeper has won the award as a piece of evidence on the credit given to the goalkeepers in the business.
Lev Yashin of Russia remains the only custodian to win the Ballon d'Or to date. The Russian won it in 1963 for his excellent displays for Dynamo Moscow.
A more surprising fact is that only four defenders to date has won the Ballon d'Or in what is in reality, a sad state of affairs. 2006 is the year where a defender last won the gong with Italy's Fabio Cannavaro being adjudged as the player of the year.
Before him, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus, and Mattias Sammer remain the only other defenders to win the Ballon d'Or.
6. Only 2 clubs have taken all top 3 spots in the same year
While winning the Ballon d’Or is quite an achievement, finishing in the top 3 is no mean feat either. It is only on the rarest of rare occasions that all the top 3 positions are secured by players from a single club. This has happened only thrice in the history of the award.
In 1988, when Marco van Basten won his first Ballon d’Or while playing for AC Milan, there was a reason to rejoice for the Rossoneri. That was because alongside Van Basten, Milan players Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard also made it to the top 3. It was the first time that all three players in the top three belonged to the same club.
The following year, Milan once again made the news when three players from the club finished in the top 3. Van Basten finished top once again, while Franco Baresi and Frank Rijkaard finished second and third respectively.
Almost two decades later in 2010, history repeated itself as Lionel Messi lifted his second Ballon d’Or, while Andres Iniesta finished second, with Xavi following in at third. The trio of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta standing on the podium. All three played for Barcelona at that time!
7. What if the Ballon d'Or was given to non-Europeans since its inception
After changing the rules in 1995, France Football did an extensive analysis of the players who would have won the award if it was open for them since 1956 - the year Ballon d'Or was started. Their study found out that Brazilian legend, Pele would have won the Golden Ball a stunning seven times (Beating Messi!).
The study also found out that Garrincha, Mario Kempes, and Diego Maradona would have been the Ballon d'Or winners twice, while the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Omar Sivori would have won it once.
8. Only 10 players have won the award more than once
As if winning the award for the first time wasn’t hard enough, a handful of players have managed to win it more than once. However, this is an accomplishment that has been achieved by just 10 men to date, which puts them in a rare group.
The feat was first managed by the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano of Real Madrid. The Spaniard won the Ballon d’Or in 1957, finishing with 72 points. In 1959, Di Stefano was back at the top once again, this time with 80 points. In doing so, he became the first-ever footballer to win the award twice.
Just over a decade later, Johan Cruyff of Barcelona repeated the feat when he won the Ballon d’Or in 1971 and then again in 1973. The Dutchman went on to win his third Ballon d’Or in the following year.
At around the same time, Franz Beckenbauer picked up two Ballon d’Or awards himself, in 1972 and 1976. At that point, there were still only a handful of players who had managed to be consistent enough to win the Ballon d’Or more than once.
Kevin Keegan, while playing for Hamburg, won his first Ballon d’Or award in 1978. In the following year, he repeated the feat, etching his name in the history books as the only English footballer to win the award twice.
In 1980, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge took over the mantle from the Englishman, gathering 122 points in the process. The German won his second Ballon d’Or the following year, becoming only the fifth player to win the coveted prize more than once.
Michel Platini then made the award his own, winning the Ballon d’Or three years in succession from 1983.
Dutchman Marco van Basten’s time to rule the award arrived next, as he picked up three Ballon d’Or awards in 1989, 1990 and 1992. Brazilian sensation Ronaldo also joined the elite club by winning the Ballon d’Or twice, in 1997 and 2002.
Since then, two unbelievable footballers have joined the group – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with six and five Ballon d’Ors, respectively. The Argentinean won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2019 while the Portuguese won his five in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
9. 10 best players who never won the Ballon d'Or
Pele, Diego Maradona, Mario Kempes, Garrincha, and Romario shared the award among them. Pele won seven, while Maradona was awarded two. However, the original European winners were unchanged.
The two legendary footballers also won honorary Ballon d'Or awards for their contributions to the beautiful game. The Brazilian won the award in 2013, while the Argentinean was awarded the coveted prize in 1996.
Neither Pele nor Diego Maradona were ever eligible to win the Ballon d'Or, with the FIFA Player of the Year award arriving too late in 1991.
From its initial inception in 1956, the Ballon d'Or was only ever open to European players playing in Europe, and it was then expanded to include all nationalities playing in Europe in 1995. It wasn't until 2010 that it merged with the FIFA Player of the Year to create the award we know today, and so the great Brazil and Argentina legends were never considered for it.
The other players that had to be eligible to win the Ballon d'Or in one of its forms are as follows:
· Spain's midfield metronome Xavi
· Barcelona captain, Andres Iniesta
· Serie A goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon
· The German goalscoring legend, Jurgen Klinsmann
· Real Madrid goalscorer, Raul Gonzalez
· AC Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini
· Arsenal's all-time record goalscorer, Thierry Henry
· Manchester United icon, Eric Cantona
· The best goalkeeper in the world at the turn of the century, Oliver Kahn.
10. 10 promising footballers to win Ballon d'Or in the future
· Mbappe (striker at Paris Saint-Germain)
· Bernardo Silva (Manchester City striker)
· Leroy Sane (winger and an attacking midfielder for Manchester City)
· James Rodriguez (Real Madrid attacking midfield)
· Neymar (PSG striker)
· Paul Pogba (Manchester United Midfielder)
· Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona Midfielder)
· Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus defender)
· Ansu Fati (Barcelona left winger)
· Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund Midfielder)