Like any other competitive sport, soccer offers certain rewards for players who are judged to have put in great levels of performance over the course of a season or a calendar year.
And one of the most prestigious individual awards that a player could receive is the Ballon d’Or trophy.
The Ballon d’Or was ingeniously devised by France Football Magazine, and it quickly grew in recognition to become the world’s most widely recognised soccer award.
From 1956 all the way through to 1995, this prize was referred to as the European Footballer of the Year award, specifically because eligibility was strictly limited to European players who represented European teams.
However, a rule change in 2007 meant that any player could compete to win this trophy.
This was a big step forward in terms of inclusivity, as players from all over the world were afforded the opportunity to compete for the sport’s most prestigious individual honor.
Later on in 2009, the award was merged with FIFA’s very own Player of the Year prize to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
But that partnership between France Football and FIFA ended in 2016, which prompted the magazine to revive the Ballon d’Or prize.
With that bit of background detailed, let’s look at the historic winners of this award.
Check out the table below:
|2021||Lionel Messi||Argentina||Paris Saint Germain|
|2019||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2018||Luka Modric||Croatia||Real Madrid|
|2017||Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Real Madrid|
|2016||Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Real Madrid|
|2015||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2014||Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Real Madrid|
|2013||Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Real Madrid|
|2012||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2011||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2010||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2009||Lionel Messi||Argentina||FC Barcelona|
|2008||Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Manchester United|
|2006||Fabio Cannavaro||Italy||Real Madrid|
|2004||Andriy Shevchenko||Ukraine||AC Milan|
|2003||Pavel Nedvěd||Czech Republic||Juventus|
|2000||Luís Figo||Portugal||Real Madrid|
|1996||Matthias Sammer||Germany||Borussia Dortmund|
|1995||George Weah||Liberia||AC Milan|
|1994||Hristo Stoichkov||Bulgaria||FC Barcelona|
|1992||Marco van Basten||Netherlands||AC Milan|
|1991||Jean-Pierre Papin||France||Olympique de Marseille|
|1990||Lothar Matthäus||Germany||Inter Milan|
|1989||Marco van Basten||Netherlands||AC Milan|
|1988||Marco van Basten||Netherlands||AC Milan|
|1987||Ruud Gullit||Netherlands||AC Milan|
|1986||Igor Belanov||Soviet Union||Dynamo Kyiv|
|1981||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||West Germany||Bayern Munich|
|1980||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||West Germany||Bayern Munich|
|1979||Kevin Keegan||England||Hamburger SV|
|1978||Kevin Keegan||England||Hamburger SV|
|1977||Allan Simonsen||Denmark||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|1976||Franz Beckenbauer||West Germany||Bayern Munich|
|1975||Oleg Blokhin||Soviet Union||Dynamo Kyiv|
|1974||Johan Cruyff||Netherlands||FC Barcelona|
|1973||Johan Cruyff||Netherlands||FC Barcelona|
|1972||Franz Beckenbauer||West Germany||Bayern Munich|
|1970||Gerd Müller||West Germany||Bayern Munich|
|1969||Gianni Rivera||Italy||AC Milan|
|1968||George Best||Northern Ireland||Manchester United|
|1967||Flórián Albert||Hungary||Ferencvárosi TC|
|1966||Bobby Charlton||England||Manchester United|
|1964||Denis Law||Scotland||Manchester United|
|1963||Lev Yashin||Soviet Union||Dynamo Moscow|
|1962||Josef Masopust||Czechoslovakia||Dukla Prague|
|1960||Luis Suárez||Spain||FC Barcelona|
|1959||Alfredo Di Stéfano||Spain||Real Madrid|
|1958||Raymond Kopa||France||Real Madrid|
|1957||Alfredo Di Stéfano||Spain||Real Madrid|
Who has won the most Ballon d’Or awards in history?
You could probably guess which players would be in the running for having the most Ballon d’Or trophies.
A good starting point would be to pick out the dominant players from each of the last couple of decades.
From there you’d be able to draft up a pretty accurate shortlist!
But instead of doing all that, you can simply continue reading this article as it’s going to reveal the answer.
So, let’s cut right to the chase…
Lionel Messi has won the most Ballon d’Or awards, as the Argentinian legend has amassed seven of these trophies over the course of his professional playing career.
Other years where Messi won the Ballon d’Or include 2019, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.
He collected the record-breaking seventh in the 2021 campaign, coming ahead of other great players in the vote like Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea’s Jorginho.
The latter – who managed to win the European Championships with his Italian national team as well as claiming the UEFA Champions League trophy in the same season – could only get a distant third place finish.
It was a great season for Messi that year, as he collected his first senior trophy with Argentina when they won the 2021 edition of the Copa America tournament.
What that tells you is how good of a player Lionel Messi clearly is, as he comfortably beat another contender who had won two of the biggest team accolades in the game.
On a separate note, Cristiano Ronaldo follows closely behind Messi with five Ballon d’Or awards to his name.
In fact, here’s a better breakdown of the tallies:
|Player||Nationality||Number of Awards||Year(s)|
|Lionel Messi||Argentina||7||2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||5||2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017|
|Johan Cruyff||Netherlands||3||1971, 1973, 1974|
|Michel Platini||France||3||1983, 1984, 1985|
|Marco van Basten||Netherlands||3||1988, 1989, 1992|
|Alfredo Di Stéfano||Spain||2||1957, 1959|
|Franz Beckenbauer||West Germany||2||1972, 1976|
|Kevin Keegan||England||2||1978, 1979|
|Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||West Germany||2||1980, 1981|
How is the Ballon d’Or winner selected?
The criteria for winning this award has certainly raised eyebrows in the recent past, as there have been a few contentious wins and narrow misses.
A good case in point is the 2010 season when Wesley Sneijder won a historic treble with Inter Milan.
His team picked up Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League trophies all in the same campaign.
Sneijder was seen as a strong candidate for the Ballon d’Or that season.
The Dutchman was the creative lynchpin of that side, and in addition to his exemplary club performances he had very impressive exploits for his national team that finished as runners-up to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
It’s possible to argue all day about whether or not Sneijder should have won the Ballon d’Or that season, but that would be going off on an unnecessary tangent.
Here’s a bit of insight into the Ballon d’Or selection criteria…
1. On-field performance
According to FIFA’s Rules of Allocation document, one of the ways in which the world football governing body bestowed the previous FIFA Ballon d’Or award was by evaluating on-field performance.
This would include things like talent, skills and trophies won throughout the season, as well as goal contributions and overall attacking influence during matches.
2. Overall behavior
Another aspect that FIFA used to consider was a player’s overall behavior on and off the pitch.
What this meant was that players had to exhibit the qualities of a good role model, which meant that their overall character and media profile would be taken into account as part of the selection criteria.
Discipline was paramount and it meant that players like Luis Suarez – who received a four-month ban from all football-related activities for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 FIFA World Cup – would suffer when it came to Ballon d’Or voting.
Here’s a great video that sums all this information up:
Which female players have won the women’s Ballon d’Or?
Soccer isn’t just a men’s game!
Quite recently, a female version of this award was created to honor the sporting exploits of women who play the game.
In 2018, the Ballon d’Or Féminin was launched to commemorate the top performers in women’s soccer.
Here’s the list of winners, right from the award’s inception:
|2021||Alexia Putellas||Spain||FC Barcelona|
|2019||Megan Rapinoe||USA||Reign FC|
|2018||Ada Hegerberg||Norway||Olympique Lyon|
This article has revealed all the Ballon d’Or winners recorded in the history of soccer.
If you’ve enjoyed the read then you should check out some other pieces of similar content here on the blog, like:
- Copa del Rey winners from 1903 to 2022
- Premier League Golden Boot winners from 1992 to 2021; and
- MLS Cup winners from 1996 to 2021
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